It is forty years since I graduated from McGill Medical School in 1978. Forty-four years since I first walked into the Pine Avenue entrance of the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building.

It was a bright, warm September morning. I remember that the auditorium was already dark when I entered, and steep-pitched. I took a seat on a side aisle toward the back of the room. There were many people in front of me and some people behind me. I hoped I had picked a spot where I was invisible enough not to be asked any questions. I felt slightly sick to my stomach and I worried that I might faint, or trip.

As the first days of the first week wore on, my panic grew. Learned about my classmates and my thoughts reflected my awe:

” A Ph.D.? He has a Ph.D.!! What am I doing here with people who have Ph. D.’s?”

” I wonder if I can ask to be in a group without former science majors.”

” I wonder if there’s anyone here who wasn’t a science major.”

” Another guy with a Ph. D.!”

” Oligo- what?”

I did want to know about my classmates. I did want to have friends in my class. But when anyone asked me any questions about myself, I was painfully aware of how young I was and of how little science I had studied. I remember being asked what I did for fun and wondered what people really thought when I said that I was a Brownie and Cub Leader at a church in the Milton-Park neighbourhood. I had older friends, like my high school English and Biology teachers and the priests and wardens at the church, who seemed astounded and grateful that I loved that work so much, but I thought being a Brownie and Cub leader for such poor kids must sound fairly pathetic to my sophisticated classmates. I thought being an English and Theatre major would demonstrate that I was not clever enough to be a doctor. I really was very young and all the time I thought:

“Do I measure up?”

Forty members of my class returned to Montreal and McGill for our 40th reunion. Once again, I am astounded.

My classmates are Professors of Medicine and world-renowned researchers. Some have served their country in the military and others at the highest levels of the civil service. Many are also now contemplating retirement and focused on their grandchildren and their legacies. I am friendly with most of my classmates and some are good friends. But…but…

The accomplishments of these 160 determined, intelligent people are still awe-inspiring. I am still very much enthralled by accounts of their clinical and research and social achievements and I cannot still help but wonder:

“Do I measure up?”

4 thoughts on “Measuring Up

  1. Eugene Benjamin says:

    Yes you certainly do, Gail and your accomplishments have far surpassed simply “ measuring up”. Great seeing you as always. Best Wishes, Eugene.

  2. Cheryl Jensen says:

    Yes you most certainly do.

  3. Audrey Lawrence says:

    Yes, we all strive to hard to measure up and maybe that is not always the optional goal! It is nice to take joy in one’s own successes as well as to cherish that of others. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Dr.Beck, your leadership role with youth at such a young age is very impressive. If you had focused on science alone I have to wonder if you would have excelled in your role as a Youth Psychiatrist. Physician education needs human studies. As an RN art, science and common sense are essential. We “mature” nurses shake our heads at new nurses. So many have never provided patient care. Balance. That is the ideal. Science is much easier with it’s exact responses (excluding research of course) in my humble opinion. Palliative care and psychiatry are my favourite areas of nursing because of the varying challenges.

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