It Is An Honor
Who decided it was a good idea to trust me to learn how to save lives?
Imposter syndrome is a well-known phenomenon that many students face throughout medical school. It is described as the feeling of knowing you (somehow) earned your spot in medical school, but begin questioning your own competence and qualifications. While I, too, have felt imposter syndrome throughout my first year of medical school, I have never felt it more than when I entered the Air Force as an officer.
My home town of Yuba City, California, is very military based. More students graduating from my high school enlisted in the military than in college. One of those students was one of my closest friends.
I watched him endure boot camp and welcomed him home with proud arms. As a college student I watched him work so incredibly hard to ascend the ranks in the Marine Corps. I hold the utmost respect for the enlisted, because I see him in every soldier. It was inevitable that the same passion for service that inspired me to become a physician and attracted me to PNWU drove me to commission into the Air Force.
I feel this calling to serve our country deep in my soul. Pursuing college as a first-generation college student was a challenge, but entering the military as the first of my family was an incredibly new beast. When I got off the bus at Commissioned Officer Training (COT), I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I had no expectations, but I considered it to be my right of passage.
While at COT, our lead Military Training Instructor (MTI) lectured us about our uniforms. She told us that our newly pressed uniform is what our brothers and sisters have worn and sacrificed their lives in for our country; that wearing this uniform demanded respect, no matter the rank that was stitched on our collars.
When I was exhausted and sweating profusely in the dead of summer in Alabama, she reinforced in me a dedication to do the uniform justice.
I feel this deep connection with those who came before me, those who will come after me, and the patients that I will serve as a physician. Nonetheless, the imposter syndrome lingered, even presenting itself as I attempted to adjust to civilian life. This was especially true when people thanked me for my service.
“I haven’t served yet,” I would think, “I don’t deserve your thanks.”
Adjusting to medical school was also difficult. Many of my peers didn’t understand what it meant to be an HPSP (Health Professions Scholarship Program) student. Some lacked the same respect I had for the military. While my career path is very different than that of many of my peers, I try to find comfort in knowing the success of my predecessors. As a future veteran, I promise my future patients — active and veterans — that I will always provide the care they and their families deserve.
Sometimes, I look in the mirror and struggle to understand how I got to where I am today. I’m unsure of what those who have always believed in me saw inside me that made them decide I was the right fit for this job, for college, for medical school, or to become an officer of our United States Air Force. However, even when I feel like an imposter, I am driven by a sense of purpose. I care, and that’s enough to drive me forward.
So, I say to those who thank me for my service: it truly is an honor. It is an honor to be here. It is an honor to serve those who truly deserve to be thanked.
Kathleen Lundeberg, 2d Lt, USAFR
President, Student Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons
Vice President, Women in Medicine Club | Student Ambassador | Roots to Wings Mentor
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)| Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences