I feel bad for Sandeep Jauhal‘s wife. In his memoir about his medical internship, aptly named Intern, he seems a little indifferent to her. But that’s the point of the medical memoir: to drive home the point that doctors only have time to be doctors. They have to sleep, eat, breathe medicine or they will get crushed. And that is just one of the cliches this memoir falls into.
Intern begins with Jauhal not wanting to be a doctor. He’s just another Average Joe doing PhD work on quantum dots at Berkley when he finds out that his girlfriend has lupus. Cut to the medical research montage that not surprisingly, turns up empty. Strangely, he doesn’t want to go to medical school to save her (which would be no more absurd than thinking he could find the cure for lupus in the research library), he wants to go so that he can help someone. Which is probably a good thing, since the girlfriend disappears from the narrative as soon as his mind is made up.
After medical school, he goes to do his internship in New York, “hoping that in a city of eight million people, I’d be lucky enough to meet someone to fall in love with.” Since he never explained what happened to the lupus-sufferer, this admission is more jarring than sweet.
No matter, he’s off and running, meeting his future wife Sonia shortly after he moves to New York. His doubts begin almost instantly. She’s a medical student in Washington, only in the city for the summer. It’s not the distance he’s worried about, it’s dating another doctor that worries him.
“Wouldn’t I get more out of marrying a linguistics professor, or even a lawyer?” Jauhar writes.
The book is full of these little tid bits.
Not that Jauhar really has time to dwell on his relationship inadequacies. Like the many books that have come before it, Jauhar launches into the difficulties he has adapting to the oppressive work schedule, rigid hierarchy, and constant feelings of inadequacy. Though largely predictable, there is a surprise narrative twist. Jahaur develops a pain in his neck and shoulder, diagnosed as a slipped disk. And he takes a leave of absence. Before this book, I was pretty sure that you had to be pregnant or on your death bed to take a leave of absence. But not only is it suggested to him, he is encouraged to take it! Apparently doctors can be human.
But back to the wife.
Kidding aside, Jauhar is brave enough to record his ambivalence, unromantic as it might be. But it doesn’t just extend to Sonia, its part of his fabric. He is back and forth about med school, has trouble choosing a specialty, questions his decision to become a doctor when he begins his internship and seriously considers leaving. Only when his neck pain threatens to push him out does he change his mind.
Unlike in other memoirs, he is racked with indecision and the crazy internship schedule actually runs him down, actually taking a toll on his relationship. So maybe he is more of an Average Joe? He gets the girl and everything.