When You Knew You Wanted To Be a Physician

May 20, 2010

One look at his "miserable soot-covered" face while hitching rides on trains convinced Robert L. Horner, MD, that he wanted to be a physician. When did you know you wanted to be a physician?

Robert L. Horner, MD, knew he wanted to be a physician when he was 16 and riding the rails out West.

In June's Physician Writer Search column, Dr. Horner writes:

"It was dark, wet, and cold as the train pulled into Rawlins, Wyo. I had been riding east in an open car that trailed a Union Pacific coal-burning helper engine, and found myself covered with soot. Filthy and shivering, I went into the washroom of a pool hall across the street from the railroad yard and tried to wash with cold water and toilet paper; there was no soap. My face was streaked like a zebra, my eyes were bloodshot, and I was tired and hungry. I was 16 years old. “Is this really the life that I want?” I asked myself."

His family had been encouraging him to study medicine, but his uncle, who was a doc, had to wear ties and be indoors all day. But then, his "miserable soot-covered" face convinced him.

When did you know you wanted to be a physician?