The surgery chief (the one I thought I had hopelessly embarassed myself to last week) gave me a stack of books, and a long list of advice about surgery textbooks. My resident shook my hand and said she was sure I would be a good doctor. The third year students said congratulations (and it’s awful that I can’t quite remember what it felt like last year, watching the fourth years leave – a mixture of admiration and envy). I gave my beeper back to the secretary.

The next time I walk into a hospital, I will be a doctor. The next time my beeper goes off, the person on the other end is going to want an answer, not a delaying tactic. The next time I introduce myself to a patient, I will be “Dr. Alice” – which is my father’s name, how can that possibly be me? The next time I make plans for a patient, I’ll be the one who has to write the orders to make it happen.

The next time there’s a code, I’ll be doing more than watching. The next time an ambulance pulls up, flashing, from a highway wreck, it’ll be more than a matter of curiosity to me.

This can’t be real. But if it were, underneath all the fright, and all the potential for mistakes, there would be an incredible bubble of ecstasy and thanksgiving.