February 28, 2022

My Dual Identity

Parth S. Gandhi, DO
Christiana Care EM/IM PGY3

Throughout time, there has been a concept around the duality of life and how we live in a world of “paradoxical unity.” This concept was first described in an ancient Eastern writing known as Tao Te Ching, in which the author theorizes that good only exists because there is evil, and beauty exists only because there is ugliness. He goes on to state that instead of trying to fight these contradictions, one should live “openly with [this] apparent duality and paradoxical unity.”

As my training as a dual resident continues, I look at the Tao Te Ching and try to make sense of the never-ending duality of training in my mind. At times, while working in the emergency department (ED), I find myself thinking about the long-term plans and work up of patients as new patients continue to be placed in rooms. Conversely, while working on the floors, I find myself triaging and approaching patients as if they were undifferentiated patients in the ED. Throughout my first year of training, I found it difficult to balance the two sides of my training. I would often become frustrated with my inability to quickly adjust when going from one side to the other. Unfortunately, there was no magic solution to this problem, but there was a rather obvious one: acceptance.

Throughout my training, I noticed, as time passed, my categorical colleagues would spend a larger proportion of their time in their respective primary roles. As a result of this, I couldn’t help but feel that I had to find a way to keep up with them. However, the more I tried to do this, the more I found myself struggling with my two identities. Slowly, I realized that many other combined residents experience this uncomfortable need to “keep up.” This is a shared sentiment amongst most, if not all, of us and through acceptance, I was able to overcome this uncomfortable feeling.

I am now in my third year of training and realize that the last two years have created a foundation of knowledge and skill that is both unique and specific to combined residents. I find myself using the two sides of my training interchangeably on a daily basis and have seen how it augments my clinical abilities. I encourage all combined residents who have struggled with this duality of training to remember the writing of Tao Te Ching, and, instead of trying to overcome it, accept the paradoxical unity that our journey has to offer.