I always hated gunners in medical school. I am certainly not alone in my hatred, having run across this cartoon from Fizzy. Gunners are the people in medical school who would throw you, quite literally, in front of a bus for an A. This type of person would explain my dislike as jealousy, but they are sadly deluded.
In my class, as in every medical school, there was a person who exemplified this behavior to a T. Ask any doctor (who wasn't a gunner) who this person was in their class, they'll be able to answer you immediately, usually with a scowl darkening their face simultaneously. The person in my class was the type of person who would learn what topic their classmates were required to do a presentation on the next day, study it religiously, then sit by the teacher and ask insanely detailed, impossible questions about every nuance of the topic, nudging the teacher knowingly when the classmate could not answer. On rounds, he would prompt the attending to ask questions about complicated patients, encouraging them by proxy to berate the student following them for not knowing their patient.
When match day came, he was confident as ever, with his top grades and top scores earning him a spot....nowhere. Despite being the number one ranked student in our class, he had failed to match. Why? Because he had only applied to the top four ortho programs in the country, assured that his rank would garner him a spot. My guess as to why it didn't was that, during the interviews, he likely came across as so arrogant that the residencies wanted nothing to do with him.
I thought that was where my story with him ended, until I picked a residency out of state. When I started a rotation with the ER, low-and-behold, who was working beside me, except the gunner. It seems he had scrambled into an ER spot after being turned down for his preferred specialty. Just my luck. He was (almost) as arrogant as ever, but was largely ignored by his fellow residents. All his grades, his success in medical school suddenly meant nothing. The program he had entered had likely jumped at the chance to take such a "top" student, but there were others with far lesser scores and grades who were now at exactly the same point in life as he was. I tolerated him as best as possible, but he had several run-ins with other residents in my program, most famously being threatened with physical violence by one of my peers in the middle of a code.
Two years after residency ended, I was again under the assumption that I was done with the gunner. However, one day I was eating lunch with friends when a lone figure entered the Asian restaurant we were dining in. If he noticed me, he showed no signs of it, a troubled look on his face. He sat behind our large group in a booth about ten feet away. While we were laughing and joking, he made a phone call. I could overhear his conversation.
Gunner: "No, mom. They weren't interested. *pause* I've still got a few other places I could try, but I'm not sure about them."
He sounded sad. Forlorn.
I talked with the physician recruiter at our hospital later. He had applied for a critical care position with my hospital. He was so arrogant during the conversation that our recruiter had told him no, despite his qualifications. They also told me that he'd admitted he'd been turned down at multiple hospitals and fired for his behavior at another.
In that moment I didn't feel anger toward him anymore. I felt sorry for him.
A middle-aged man who spent his professional life showing everyone how much better he was than them is suddenly in the unenviable position of being outmatched, by people with lower scores, lower grades than him. His reward for all his troubles was complete failure in his professional career, and his life, reduced to a 40 year-old, single man turning to his mother for emotional support, rather than a spouse or friends. While I laughed and joked with friends, secure in a well-paying job, he wandered from hospital to hospital, looking for a start to the same. While I understand this is karma for his behavior, I have a feeling he hasn't connected the dots. Sad.
We're told during medical school that the best doctors are the middle-of-the-road students. I have no idea whether or not that is true. What I do know is that I am glad I had the experience of developing the social skills I currently possess. They have allowed me to have a secure position in a good (sometimes) job, a good life and good friends. A lot of gunners would argue that we're settling for mediocrity, a doctor at a local hospital, but that's what we were training for: to practice medicine and heal the sick, not to become Nobel laureates.
I'll take my "mediocrity," thank you.