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Thoughts on Prestige and Credibility.

23 April 2015

So, I spent the day yesterday lecturing to faculty and administration at an ultra-fancy hospital affiliated with an ultra-fancy medical school. Now, I work in an ultra-fancy hospital affiliated with a very-fancy medical school, so institutionally I wasn’t super intimidated. But I was a little intimidated. If I had been coming directly from my previous institution, I think I’d have been terrified. It’s fascinating how institutional prestige influences how I feel about my own work. My methods are unchanged. My results are similar. My efforts the same. But with the institution backing me being more famous, etc., I feel like I come with a credibility that my work alone could never inspire.

I totally admit that I like that reflected glory. As I’ve said a bunch of times here recently, I’m kind of vain. I aspire to be a recognized expert in my field, and I’m apparently starting to get to that place. There’s little question that being at MECMC has aided that remarkably, even though it hasn’t changed the nature of my professional practice significantly. It certainly hasn’t improved it. I’m doing the same quality work I was doing when I was at a smaller, relatively unknown institution. And if I ever leave here and return to a less-prestigious place, I’ll do the same quality work then too.

In the middle of writing this post, I just discovered that my latest paper is being published alongside an invited commentary praising it rather highly. It’s written by an Ivy League physician who basically says that we undersold how cool the work is and that other people should adopt our methods in their own local environments. More fancy-pants recognition for me which I truly appreciate.

I’m deeply conflicted about these types of honors though. Obviously, I just wrote three paragraphs about how great it is. But at the same time, I want to be satisfied with a simple life, local contributions. I want to do good work and I admire people who are quiet about it let the work speak for itself. And yet here I am crowing. It’s hard for me not to brag, even though I know how ugly that is. I like to think that at least I also celebrate the accomplishments of others, in addition to bragging about my own. Maybe that helps? Maybe it’s rationalization. I’m good at that.

I’m 40 years old. I’m not likely to change too much about my basic personality at this point. I’m vain. I brag. I know it’s not becoming. I can’t seem to fix it. I guess I don’t really want to. The things I’ve wanted to change about myself I’ve generally succeeded at changing. The fact that I haven’t changed this one means that I’m invested somehow in the bragging and vanity. That’s as it is. I am as I am. It’s hard for me to accept the things about myself I know aren’t pretty. But acceptance has different flavors. There is the acceptance we talk about in sobriety, that relates to coming to peace with things we can’t control. And there is the de facto acceptance I obviously have of my braggadocio: I’m unwilling to change it.

I am what I am. And I like where I’m going. I wish I were going there a little more gracefully.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. sciliz permalink
    27 April 2015 11:18

    There are two kinds of people I notice being vain and bragging.
    1) those that believe we are all awesome and encourage others to brag of their own awesomeness
    2) those who believe they are specially awesome, and are annoying as heck.

    Just sayin’.

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