SUS Presidential Session: Clifford Cho, MD
Purpose at the Bench
The third presentation in the SUS Presidential Session was by Dr. Cliff Cho.
Finding purpose in laboratory research-Dr. Cho quickly had the audience laughing as he proclaimed his personal disclaimers:
1. I am a man of average insight: however, I did just turn 50.
2. I will not tell you my purpose because it is none of your business.
Purpose is like love:
It is helpful – it enables smart, priority-based decisions.
It is elusive – it is so nearby, but it discovers you gradually.
It is enchanting – you wish you could spend more time with it.
It is generous – it asks so much, but somehow it gives back more.
It is faithful – at the very end it will give back to you.
Dr. Cho described what he has learned along his journey. The journey was filled with the stressors of ego crushing rejections, which gave him a feeling of imposter syndrome. He told himself that research is noble because it is so hard, competitive. Vanity convinced him that reviewers did not understand and did not define him.
He then shared what he has learned:
1. The world may see us more accurately than we see ourselves.
2. Use reviews for their intended purpose – reviewers are unencumbered by personal vanity.
3. I am not in the top 50% of everything I try, but being below average is not incompatible with enjoying it.
4. Having gratitude.
5. Start with the assumption that you are even more flawed than you thought. However, try to be excellent, not better than others.
6. Laboratory research is amazing, but it is at times hard to remember. To help you remember invite early trainees, collaborate with someone who is very different than you, and talk to people outside of medicine about your science. Laboratory research is similar to mowing and shoveling – 99% doing and 1% accomplishment. There is beauty in the process: Adjusting the hypothesis, designing the experiment, doing the work, analyzing the data, troubleshooting the problems, adjusting the hypothesis.
7. Break out of the habit of defaulting to criticism, rather intentionally notice the beauty in others.
In conclusion finding purpose is like falling in love:
It finding you is as important as you finding it.
You will want to find it for yourself.
Don’t rely too much on yourself or your instincts.
The finding part doesn’t really stop.
The closer you get, the less important you become.
Fulfillment only begins if you serve it first.
The natural response when you find it: thanks.
My hope: that we will all find it!