As far back as I can remember, I’ve deliberately spent my life on the high road. I was the seventh-grader who was told by adults that she was very serious. I was the college student who majored in chemistry because it was the strongest premed major. I became a doctor.
Before becoming a doctor, I imagined that I would be the epitome of compassion. I envisioned pausing for a moment before I saw each patient to pray for that person and to ask for wisdom. During my last two years of medical school, I enjoyed hanging out with my patients, just listening to their stories. I was the one who made a special trip to buy a book that I thought might encourage a patient. I was the one who sat by a women wrapped in the pain of metastatic malignant melanoma as she moaned, “They shoot sick dogs, don’t they? Why can’t they do that for sick people too?”
During the first month of my internship at St. Louis’s Barnes Hospital, when I was on call every other night in …