The Human Connection

Yesterday was my last day of my 4th year clinical internship. A week from today I’ll be graduating, and I’ll be a doctor of optometry. I’ll tell you right now, it feels really good to be at this point.

The most common question I get asked by students nowadays is, “How is 4th year?” I usually answer: good, fun, relaxing, great to be almost done…

There is an answer I always want to say but never do: “It’s scary.”

But it’s not what you think. A lot of people believe we need a year of clinical internships are to figure out what kind of doctor we want to be, but it’s not true, that’s the easy part. After the first month or two, the diseases, treatments, management plans, you learn that stuff pretty quickly because you have to. The scary part is trying to figure out what kind of person you want to be.

We learn so much about optometry and healthcare that sometimes we forget that is a human being sitting in front of us who just want someone to help them and listen to them. In some ways, it would be almost easier to take the human aspect out of it, to not have to empathize. That way each patient would be just like a textbook case from class: diagnose, treat, and move on. But easier doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Marianne Williamson once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

Healthcare is a relationship, a partnership, a team effort. It is not a dictatorship. When we educate our patients, we do so to help them understand, not to give out orders. Because we are the ones that have the power to determine the type of human connection we’re going to have with our patients.

Think about that the next time you see patients. It’s scary to realize that we can do so much and mean so much to our patients, but it’s also one of the great privileges we have.

Thanks for listening.


-Will To


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