Why Are We Doing This? An “Almost” Mission Statement

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 “I am the voice of my generation. Well, maybe a voice.” – Lena Dunham, Girls (HBO)

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Two days ago, I was ordering an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts when I witnessed something rather remarkable. An old man walked in and ordered right after me.  The sweat on this guy’s gray t-shirt ran down from his neck, creating a deep and dark V shape, and his blue jeans almost sagged to the floor off the weight of his utility belt. “A to Z Construction” his shirt said on the back. “Dark roast iced as big as they get,” he told the woman at the register.

“At least they got us drilling inside half the day. This summer heat…woo-wee,” he continued.

“Mmm-hmm,” she responded. She took his money, handed him a receipt and he came over to stand with the rest of us waiting hopefuls.

A twenty-something kid walks in and right up to the old man. He says he found a wallet on the job site and that the wallet has 300 bucks in it. He’s giddy because he needed to get his girlfriend a gift anyways and thinks the pink wallet is perfect. The old man responds (and this is the amazing part), “Act only on maxims through which you can will become universal laws.”

“Wha’d you say?” the kid replies back, dumbfounded.

“What if some girl found your wallet on the street and gave it to her boyfriend? You shouldn’t even have to think about these things, egghead. Give it back to the cop near the job site and get back to work,” the old man hammered. The kid leaves and the old guy looks over to me. “Kids these days,” he says, “f***in’ illiterate.”

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I’m an “almost” doctor. I have been and will continue to be for many years of my life.  Being an “almost” doctor, I’ve seen my fair share of strange human interactions, in and out of the clinical setting.  And yet, there was something particularly strange about this one. I’m sharing this experience for two reasons. Both, interestingly enough, remind me of reasons for why we started this site for other “almost” doctors.

The first reason is that wisdom tends to come from places you never expect. Much like a construction worker who can paraphrase Immanuel Kant, we wanted to create a simple, unassuming website jam-packed with things that would knock your socks off. Things you wouldn’t find anywhere else like in your textbooks or at the bottom of a test tube. Things that are uniquely curated, strange and make you see the world a little differently. It’s about time there was some place for “almost” doctors to come together with that kind of mission in mind. I won’t bore you with the details of how we created the ‘sleek’ design or go on about our efforts to aggregate content from the best contributors from across the web. We’re not trying to sell you an iSomething and quite frankly, we think that our website speaks for itself.

The second reason is a bit more nuanced. Just about any person you ask these days has a polarized view about getting into the medical profession. Some people will tell you that this is the best profession out there because you are given the privilege to heal others.  They may also say we are living in an age of unimaginable research and disruptive technologies that can help us cure diseases and treat patients in ways that seemed impossible just a few years back. Now others will tell you to run for the hills if you tell them about your interest in medicine.  They’ll say doctors can’t make an honest living anymore or that the doctor-patient relationship is under attack. Maybe they’ll throw in a little bit about how the system incentivizes you to manage disease, not cure it. For extra points, they might add that medical school will drive you insane trying to memorize tiny details without getting any sense of how our healthcare system works overall.

Here’s the tricky part: neither side in this debate is ever entirely wrong. There are amazing advances being made everyday in medicine, but job satisfaction levels and burnout rates tend to be bad. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, somewhere in restoring balance.

What do I mean by that? Well, take for instance our philosopher construction worker. There’s something personally comforting to know that the same man who lays brick for a living also spends his off-time thinking about the categorical imperative. Call it zen, balance, a walking contradiction, whatever: that one statement he made challenged a slice of my reality–at a Dunkin Donuts, of all places! So much of our lives as “almost” doctors are spent putting our blinders up to the outside world during exam weeks, and following the well-defined, often competitive path to the end of our journey. And who knows if it gets better once we’re on the other side?

We built this website to restore balance, even if it’s during just your five minute study break. We think the world deserves to have healthcare professionals who have an avenue to explore and engage with issues about something greater than who-got-what on a shelf exam. But more importantly, “almost” doctors deserve a place that ignites their passions and sparks a little inspiration.

Enjoy, share, discuss, contribute, win cool “Almost” scholarships. This is your website.

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Rohan Jotwani, "Almost" MD/MBA

Rohan Jotwani is a co-founder of The "Almost" Doctor's Channel and serves as Managing Editor. He is currently an MD/MBA student at the Tufts School of Medicine and is an avid producer and reader on topics in digital health, neuroscience and global health. Raised in Seoul, South Korea and Flushing, Queens, Rohan graduated from Columbia University. He has previously worked at The Doctor's Channel, WebMD and Pfizer, and is the former President of the Columbia Debate team.