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  • Writer's picturePatrice Mann

The Sum of Our Transitions

I was warned as an anxious M1,

“The transition to medical school can be tough.

Nothing really prepares you.”

And it was true.

Trainings, assessments, and professionalism.

Interrupted by panels, fun facts, and mixers.

Of course, the warnings persisted,

“Just wait until you start your Outpatient Experience!


Step One studying!”

Then, I understood that all we do is transition.


Modules follow one another in quick succession.

“No mom, we had our heart exam two weeks ago. Remember? We’re learning about the GI tract now.”

A new anxiety replaces each resolved one.

“Congratulations to everyone on passing Step 1!

Welcome to Orientation to the Wards!”

Rotations commence and conclude abruptly.

“Hi, um… would you mind buzzing me in the parking lot? My badge isn’t active yet.”

Topics string together, forming comprehensive patient interviews. “Thank you for being so cooperative Mr. Brown.

Now I going to ask you some questions about your sexual health.”


Some of us move seamlessly,

Gliding from success to success,

Like a scalpel guided under a steady surgeon’s grip,

Collecting accolades at every turn.

Others of us drag diligently behind,

Straining to reach each milestone,

Stretching like a latex glove a size too small,

Arriving with exhaustion and relief.


Frustration, Tears, and Isolation.

Painful Transitions.

Preparation, Confidence, and Understanding.

Successful Transitions.

Stammering, Fidgeting, and Sweating.

Awkward Transitions.

Rumors, Expectations, and Anxiety.

Overwhelming Transitions.

Questions, Challenges, and Growth.

Necessary Transitions.


"The Sum of Our Transitions" is a poem that I wrote during my final year of medical school in 2017 for Emory School of Medicine’s Literary Magazine, "The Stylus". It has remained relevant and comforting during subsequent periods of transition for me, and I hope it may provide comfort to someone reading as well.


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