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Doctors’ Diaries: Jay Bonner, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 765

Essay

The PBS documentary “Doctors’ Diaries” follows the lives of a group of medical students over the course of two decades, from the time they enter medical school up to their subsequent careers in various specialties and medical practices. One of the common threads that runs through each of their stories is that none of them were really able to imagine how challenging and difficult it would be to actually be doctors once they finished school, and each of them faced a number of personal challenges (such as divorce) because of the pressures and demands of medical careers. While all of them had interesting and often unpredictable lives in the 20 years covered by the film, it is the story of one student, Jay Bonner, whose personal and professional lives might best exemplify the common challenges all of them faced.

Like the rest of the group, Jay began his medical career feeling largely unprepared for the role, especially after leaving medical school and beginning his time at a teaching hospital. On the day he and his new coworkers were issued white lab coats, Jay noted that it felt “like a costume,” and he had some difficulty reconciling what he had learned from textbooks and lectures with the practical realities of day-to-day life in the hospital. At the same time as Jay is facing these new challenges of completing his National Board Examination and moving on to the teaching hospital, he is also seen preparing for and them going through his weeding (to what would later turn out to be his first wife). There is an uncomfortable moment at this point in the film, when Jay’s fiancée addresses the camera to talk about how “tense” he has been lately. The tension clearly goes beyond just job stress, however, and it seems possible to predict, based on those few seconds with his future wife, that his marriage will not last. It is not the least bit surprising when, later in the film, Jay is seen spending time with his new romantic partner as he is heard describing the impact his divorce had on his personal and professional life.

Jay gives voice to another of the universal challenges he and his cohorts face when they leave school and begin their time at various teaching hospitals: the hierarchy of medical students and doctors, and his place in that hierarchy. Another subject, Tom Tanner, speaks to the same topic, describing how life in the hospital is like being a lowly monk in a religious order, with interns, residents, and attending physicians serving as the priests, high priests, and the attending physician as the deity in this caste system. While not all the film’s subjects address this same topic, what comes through in this scene is that all of them are working to find their own identities as doctors, and figuring out ways to come to terms with the fact that many of their expectations (both personal and professional) are very different from what they face in the real world. When Jay discusses how humiliated he is when an attending physician chastises him for making a mistake, it is clear that it cuts to the very core of his self-worth and sense of personal identity.

Despite the fact that Jay, like almost all of the other subjects of the film, is divorced from his first wife, he appears to be in a good place in life when he is shown in the later scenes. Early in the film, Jay notes that his hobby of painting and his interest in art are an important part of his life, and he feels that it is important to have that creative outlet that exists separately from his medical career. Jay asserts that art will always play an important role in his life, and when the film catches up with him at the end viewers learn that his new partner is a painter whom he met and fell in love with after seeing one of her works. While Jay seems personally and professionally grounded, he also notes that it is difficult and embarrassing for him to watch the videotape of him as a student, describing himself as “vain.” For viewers, however, Jay does not come across as vain as a young man, but simply as a person whose dreams and goals are based on an idealized vision of what it will means to be a doctor. By the end of the film, Jay, like the other subjects, has clearly come to terms with the fact that life as a doctor is a challenging, rewarding, and sometimes painful career choice.

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