I generally keep my PDr articles pretty focused on the medical realm, but today I wanted to briefly step outside of it to recognize someone who has demonstrated values that I’ve found personally relevant to my growth in medical school. Today, that person is Ashton Kutcher, who gave an acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards last year that I felt was worth remembering. Stick with me here. At that time, I had Facebook’s new “trending” sidebar to thank for prompting me to watch his speech, and I’m not ashamed in saying that I’m glad I did. It was not what I was expecting. I saw Ashton Kutcher step outside the context of Hollywood, and speak to a horde of teens as a mature mentor worthy of emulating. The video is pasted below, and the ways that it can apply to your medical and premedical school experience is just below that.
If you didn’t want to spend the 3 minutes watching the video (just watch it), here is a summary of the major points that he made in his speech, and how they can apply to students. Afterwards is my takeaway.
- “Opportunities look a lot like hard work.”
This is an easy one to forget, and there have been times when I’ve forgotten it as well. I frequently hear students jokingly say things such as “I don’t belong here,” or “I feel like a fraud,” or “everyone here is smarter than me.” It’s a shame, because unless you legitimately just showed up to classes without being accepted, you do belong at that school, and you have done something great to deserve it. I feel like the culture of medicine at times encourages this type of self-deprecation, and I’m not saying to overstep or be arrogant, but never feel like you don’t belong. In the words of Ashton, “I never had a job in my life that he was better than, I was always just lucky to have a job.” Remember that opportunities like yours look a lot like hard work, so don’t try to make them look like anything less.
- “Nothing is sexier than being really, really smart.”
I think that all premedical/medical students would choose to happily agree with this.
- “Everything around us that we call life was created by people that are no smarter than you.”
Okay, so this one gets credited to Steve Jobs, but I still think it’s a valuable concept to pass on. We tend to get conditioned throughout our educational career that we are in school to learn, and the professors and teachers are there to teach. In medical school, and in undergrad for many, those lines start to blur. After 18 years in school, I am finally able to learn straight from the experts, and one thing that I quickly came to realize is that even the experts don’t have all the answers. There is this finite body of knowledge and research that I found is being driven by the few individuals who have dedicated themselves to broadening our understanding of science and health. There is no higher, omniscient or masterful order that organically drives medicine in the right direction, it is just individual people who work hard and keep the cutting edge sharp. We don’t have all the answers, and more and more I hear my own professors call upon students to one day answer the questions that they cannot. It feels awkward at first. I’m just a medical student, why is this professor telling me to make all these grand changes? Sometimes I get stuck in the thought that all of these systems and advances were thought up by a cohort of people that were smarter than me, or knew better than me, or did it for some reason that I just don’t understand yet. Unfortunately that’s just not always true. The history of medicine is riddled with cases of medical “norms” being challenged to the benefit of mankind, and that cycle should never stop. Everything we’re surrounded by was created by people that were once students just like us, so who’s to say you can’t help usher in mountains of change.
Evan’s Takeaway-“ Respect your platform”
The major connection that I wanted to make here is that Ashton (Chris) Kutcher, much like doctors and aspiring medical students, has a platform, and his respect for that platform is something that I believe every medical student can benefit learning from. Our actions and intentions will only hold more and more weight, and one day patients will rely on our word to help them navigate some of the most important issues in their lives. It’s a sobering reality, and it’s an important responsibility to begin processing. When I saw Ashton make that speech on youtube, I was surprised. It took me a few moments to realize that the reason I was surprised is because I don’t often expect a teen icon to actually use their time on stage at a teen awards show to be a true role model in that moment. It was a refreshing display of maturity from a man that clearly respects his platform, and if I had a child I would want them to look up to someone like him. When a doctor talks about anything from ebola to dieting, people listen, and that should instill an element of fear and responsibility in our actions and advocacies. Like most, that’s the kind of doctor I hope to become one day, someone who realizes the weight of their word and utilizes their position to spread knowledge, perspective and health. To all the prospective doctors out there, take a lesson from Ashton, and start to respect your ever-growing platform.