The blue backpack

Dominic Wang is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at Western University


My usual Sunday morning plans to catch up on last week’s lectures were mixed with a dash of anticipation for a taste of a new city’s coffee scene. All this, with the blue backpack.

Heading out, my eye was immediately caught by a man at the bus stop. He was singing and dancing in a style reminiscent of a grainy ‘50s film, but was wandering dangerously into the middle of the road. I considered my options as I drew closer: do I stop him, or do I keep walking? All this, with the blue backpack.

Our eyes met. We both nodded. He strolled up with a grin on his face. We exchanged the usual greetings. Then, he asked it: “Are you a med student?” We were suddenly talking about his dancing, and how he may have been drinking, and how he may have wanted to study at Western, and how he may have been abused as a child, and how he may have schizophrenia. I pulled out my phone, gave him the time for the next bus, and continued to my stop.

As I was leaving the bus, I suddenly heard a crash behind me. I turned and saw two cars rammed against one another with no one in the cars moving.


No one had screamed. Everyone was staring at the scene. No phones were out, no sirens in the air. I kept walking to the coffee shop. Pulling out my laptop, I started to read about the inheritance pattern of PKU.

. . . . .

I had just finished my first exam. After sleeping at 2 AM and waking up at 6, that ‘end-of-the-week’ quiz could wait. I was walking with a friend when he was stopped by an old buddy. I turned to the buddy’s friend to fill the silence while the two caught up. We exchanged the usual greetings. Then, he said it: “So you’re a med student.” Yes, I am. “So you think you’re better than everybody else.”

The rest of conversation completely swerved from medicine. I don’t remember what we talked about. And I didn’t remember to do that quiz.

All this, with the blue backpack.


Note: All characters in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

3 thoughts on “The blue backpack

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for this story. The symbol of the "blue [CMA] backpack" as representing the privilege ( as evidenced by the dancer's quick trust), and yet burden and sometimes of isolation of medicine was so meaningful to me.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for this story, it was a different perspective than what I have had before.
    When I wear my backpack, I find a sense of connection. Being in the class of 2020, I found that I didn't relate well with people in my class in the first year, and my friends from before medicine couldn't relate with how my school life was. Going forward and developing more friendships, I felt it was less of a burden and more of a way to connect too other people. I especially noticed that feeling when I was flying to visit family, and medical student from a year above me from another school noticed my backpack and struck up a conversation. Although I see from your view about how it can be a burden and associated with responsibility, I have been fortunate to have experienced how it gave me a sense of community with medical students from my own year, my own College and across Canada.

  3. Cam Johnston

    There is a difference between "privilege" and thinking you are "better than everybody else". Believe me, with some students, the reek of superiority becomes quite obvious around the first week of med school. And to be fair, there are some faculty who also think that the normal standards of courtesy and respect don't apply to them as well. Students often have a poor example in that regard. Thoughtful piece, Dom. Cheers.


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