An Epiphany

“Midway in the journey of our life

I came to myself in a dark wood

For the straight way was lost.”

Translation from the first canto of the first cantica Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy

Much have been going through my head lately. Apart from my work. About life. About what I really want to become in life. A doctor? A scientist? Or, perhaps, both? (and I haven’t even begun to think what field of medicine I would like to specialise in!)

Pondering aloud has begotten me a wide spectrum of response from the people around me.

On one end of the spectrum, one of my hospital colleague is of opinion that the excellence in both fields are mutually exclusive. That to achieve excellence in one requires the sacrifice of the other.

“A great scientist can never be a good clinician, while a doctor who spends much time with his patients will never produce world-changing scientific work. Are you willing to quit medicine? Are you able to imagine yourself stuck for long hours in the lab for the rest of your life?”

(I should have clarified with her what she meant by ‘world-changing scientific work’…)

On the other end of the spectrum, an old friend of mine feels the other way around.

“The thought of finding something new everyday gives you a reason to live. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life doing the same thing, do you? You only live once, you know?

In the USA, each year, about 1000 of 17000 medical students do an MD-PhD, and go on to become great scientists. And some of the clinician scientist that I have worked with are some of the best clinicians in the hospital.”

(No prize for guessing correctly whether this guy is an MD-PhD student)

A crossroad.

Two paths to follow. One filled with hurdles. The other filled with hurdles, and extra hurdles.

I think I will try my best to prove to the lady-colleague of mine that she is wrong. Even if it takes a lifetime to do that. There is truth in words of the MD-PhD friend. Yet, words from both parties have invoked a deep-rooted determination in me.

1 Comment

  1. Kok Foong

    December 13, 2008 @ 5:04 pm


    hmm, no worry. i wondered for the same think too after i left INTEC. But i guess, whatever path we choose just make sure that we have no regret. Believe in it and strike hard. Also make sure that it is a path that can give you happiness and satisfaction. All the best, Shen-Han. i have faith in you, friend.

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