Why I chose PhD, Part One

I know that one of the most egregious writing clichés is opening with a quotation, but I’d like to start with a brief passage from Moby Dick.

(I know it sounds pretentious and self-aggrandizing to start like this, but bear with me. And if quoting from the book brings back haunting memories of actually reading it, my apologies.)

In the middle of the novel, Captain Ahab is lamenting that he cannot stop his obsession with hunting the whale. “The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails,” he says. “Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!”

The iron way. That’s how I feel about graduate school.

Well, maybe that’s a little extreme. But you have to understand my journey to understand that opinion.

I wasn’t initially interested in graduate school. In college, I started off, like so many students vaguely interested in medicine or healthcare, wanting to be a physician.

I was serious about it, too. I volunteered at hospitals, worked on medical research, served for three years as board member for our local pre-med chapter. I heard countless presentations from physicians about how they got involved in medicine, and I modeled my college trajectory based on their example.

But something was missing—or, as I later discovered, something was never there. There was some veiled hesitation about my wanting to be a physician that I couldn’t put my finger on.

Intellectually, I knew that was what I wanted. But I never felt passionate about that decision. I never experienced that thrumming harmonic that rang true deep within me telling me that this is your profession, this is your community.

Now I know I’m generalizing here. You can be a physician and do medical research; they aren’t mutually exclusive. But in my opinion, I wanted to spend as much time as possible practicing the craft of research.

I’ll discuss the specifics of this transition in another post, in case you’re interested. (And who wouldn’t want to read the introspective opinions of some guy you’ve never met?) There’s a suggested word limit to these posts, after all, and I don’t want my first one to read like some Melvillean tome.

(Yup, another Moby Dick reference. That’s the kind of quality backtracking I’ll bring to the conversation!)

5 responses to “Why I chose PhD, Part One

  1. Welcome to OHSU David! I look forward to following your career as a student (Like your writing style too!)

  2. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you — yes, even your introspective opinions — David; welcome aboard!

  3. Hi David,
    Glad to see you blogging and welcome your introspections! I’m looking forward to seeing your progress as well as that of your classmates. Kayly’s right – start building your arsenal and bring your body armor, but don’t forget to have fun in the process.

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