Columbia University Medical Center
In Vivo - The Newsletter of Columbia University Medical Center
Back Issues
Contact Us

In Vivo

First Person

P&S Class President Sums Up An "Amazing" Four Years

P&S Class of 2005 President Monjri Shah spoke at the P&S graduation on May 18. What follows are excerpts from her remarks, which stressed the quality and uniqueness of her P&S classmates.

Dr. Shah is now a resident in ob/gyn at NYPH.

Dr. Shah is now a resident in ob/gyn at NYPH.
By Monjri Shah, M.D.

How do you sum up four years of experiences in a few minutes? ... I'll try.

My sister told me before I started medical school that there was no way to be prepared. I thought, how hard could it be to figure out? You study hard, you make some friends along the way, and voila! Four years later you're magically a doctor. Which is true, in some ways. But my sister was right in other ways, the ways that ended up mattering.

I was completely unprepared for feeling inadequate my first year, when I realized that my classmates were some of the brightest, most talented individuals I have ever met. I remember the first Coffee House, the first Reflexions [literary magazine], the first Bard Hall Players show, the first P&S art exhibition – and I remember thinking how lucky I was to be here, because where else would most of my classmates be perfectly able to have careers in something completely different than medicine? I was unprepared for the way the class immediately bonded, especially after Sept. 11. We became each other's families when we couldn't reach our own. I was unprepared for the tremendous collegiality (after all, we were just a bunch of cutthroat premeds a few months prior). I am convinced that no other class shared so many review sheets, even though most of them were emailed out the night before the exam. I was wholly unprepared for the first time I laid hands on a patient – the feeling of responsibility and utter fear that I could, in fact, hurt rather than heal.

It is an immense duty, these M.D.s that we are given today. I didn't believe that being a doctor was a position of power before I started medical school, but the moment I donned my white coat I realized that things were different. People – family I had known for years, even – start relating the most personal aspects of their lives to me. Strangers I had known for less than 10 minutes allowed me to do a physical exam. People start expecting you to "know" – all because of a white coat. And perhaps what's even more startling is that every once in a while, you do. Every once in a while, you get that glimmer of confidence that perhaps these four years and $200,000 really do get you something besides a bunch of good stories.

We recently went through an accreditation process where we were asked, "What is the best part about P&S?" Almost without exception, the answer was, "my classmates." We joke about how Dr. Frantz [Andrew Frantz, associate dean of medicine and dean of admissions] puts together a random group of people and somehow, they seem to gel, form an identity. But he is skillful. He must see things in each of us, some common thread, because you all are truly some of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege to meet and know…