Failures can be the pillars of success

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 06 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1115
  1. Ayan Panja, senior registrar in general practice (
  1. Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire

    Few doctors can honestly claim that they have gone through their whole career without failing at something. Even the eminent dean of my medical school when I was sitting finals had allegedly failed his final MB examination because of a love affair with rowing.

    Although most of the students botched the odd exam at the end of our first hazy term at medical school, I managed to perform consistently for the whole five years—consistently poorly, that is. Many of my peers never failed again, perhaps being genuinely scared into action by their initial blunders. Whatever the reason, it felt like they were freewheeling while I still needed stabilisers. To add to my bewilderment a handful of students were jettisoned at the end of the first year for failing retakes, many of whom had S levels to their name. Failure, much like illness it seemed, could befall anyone at any time.

    Experiencing failure has made me more tolerant of colleagues, students, and, most importantly, patients

    As time wore …

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