I am an MD/PhD student. I have bachelor’s degrees in medical anthropology and biology from the University of Texas at Austin. I have a master’s degree in immunology from my current institution. This institution will remain nameless for the sake of my professional security.
I have finished two years of MD training, and I am currently finishing my PhD years. After my PhD, I have two years left of MD training, where I will spend my time learning the basics of how to practice medicine before specializing. I have loved both medical and graduate school.
My motivation is unusual. I had a bad brush with modern medicine when I was a child. I was bitter and angry. I hated medicine, and I hated science. So it is truly strange to find myself where I am now—the exact opposite of where I would expect: in an MD/PhD program studying both medicine and science.
I am very stubborn. So I decided that because medicine was wrong, I should change it by becoming a doctor. This was both the best and the worst decision of my life: I would need to internalize the identities of “doctor” and “scientist”, while being suspicious of both. Integrating this split identity has made me, I think, into a strong and substantial person. I hope that I am also becoming a good scientist and physician.
Early on, I had come to think that nutrition would solve the world’s problems. If only we could adopt the proper lifestyle, nutrition, and food system, we could prevent many diseases and solve many of modern society’s problems. I had contempt for modern medicine—modern society, really—for not seeing this.
I would later come to understand that things were not so simple. Addressing root causes can make a big impact, but so can clever solutions. Science and medicine can do both. Sometimes, insisting only on root causes and disdaining clever solutions encourages a complacent contempt for others that prevents us from growing in our knowledge—or even makes it impossible for us to acknowledge basic facts.
During my PhD I have learned how to think scientifically. Science is hard and authentic scientific thinkers are uncommon. They are uncommon among people with PhDs, even among professors, but they are even more uncommon among the critics of science.
This was one of my great disenchantments: to realize that flaws in thinking and behaving are universal among human beings, and that there is no single person or group of people that we can lean on and trust for the final word. Not scientists, not the critics of science.
Only a serious commitment to science itself is sufficient, and even that too will likely fail someday.
People and their habits of thinking are naturally limited by practical concerns for certainty, clarity, authority, speed, simplicity, resonance with previous beliefs, and much else. Science is an artificial way of setting aside these practical considerations and bringing to light what we would otherwise be unable to see. Science, being artificial, requires constant focus. This focus is under threat of being broken by considerations from the world outside of science. Yet if science can succeed, it can bring back to that same practical world things that will fundamentally change that world’s nature.
That is what all scientists should be trying to do and what I should and will be trying to do with this website.