This month, a new class of interns started working at the hospital, which meant that my co-residents and I are officially no longer interns. We recently celebrated this eagerly awaited "graduation" together.
We have endured the difficult transition to 80-hour work weeks in the hospital's dizzyingly complex life and culture. After many ups and downs, we have grown into more confident and competent versions of ourselves.
But above all that, we have transformed in another crucial way – we have become humble members of a team.
I was brought up in a competitive meritocracy that rewarded only those at the top of the curve. The system emphasized individual success and standing out from the crowd. "Exceptional" and "superstar" were the type of descriptors that brought us to where we are today.
That all had to change once residency began. Here in the hospital, we all share one goal — to provide the best patient care that we can.
No individual, no matter how talented or hard-working, can achieve that goal alone. Physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, social workers and many more staff members must contribute to achieve excellent patient care.
During internship, no patient was solely mine to look after. When my shift ended, I signed out and my colleague assumed care for our patients overnight. Then when I returned in the morning, my colleague again transferred his or her knowledge to me.
I learned to trust my co-workers' judgment and advocate for their success. In medicine, when any colleagues fail, we collectively fail our patients.
In his podcast series, "Revisionist History," Malcolm Gladwell interviewed two economists, David Sally and Chris Anderson, who used a soccer metaphor to explain team-building. "In soccer, what matters is how good your worst player is.… Mistakes turn out to be a very important part of soccer as a team sport.… You could have eight beautiful passes in a row, but if your worst player botches the ninth, then all the previous eight beautiful passes are all wasted."
In the hospital, our ability to make beautiful "passes" – sharing the knowledge critical to patient care — relies on our willingness to trust each other, and the humility to view ourselves as a link in a chain.
TV doctors often are portrayed as heroes. But in life, patient care does not depend on superstars. For any resident's work to stand out above that of his colleagues would mean care was uneven. It would reflect our collective failure.
Of course, one team member might have a brilliant insight that helps a patient. But without the ability to share that insight with respected peers, it ultimately is no more than an insight.
As I look back on how our internship year has helped shape us, it is clear that our celebration as we cross this milestone is collective. My year has been rewarding precisely because of the impressive, hard-working individuals who stand by my side as we take the next step together.