Monday, June 30, 2008

Why I think I set out to become a doctor.

What is it about the study of medicine (and for the puritans - surgery too) that keeps drawing me to it? I keep asking myself this question and dwell upon it for hours. Yes I have that much time in hand right now to spend pondering over THE question of my 25-year old life. (or rather 24 yrs and 365 day old life - it's a leap year this time ;) )

While I nurtured the childish dream of being a doctor and 'saving lives' through my school and high school years, I never had second thoughts about pursuing any other profession. (Yeah, the advertising bit was a flirtatious idea). It was never parental pressure contrary to what my sister and brother-in-law believe. Not even subtle or subconscious. My dad wanted me to dream of going to one of the IITs and mom was okay with me doing anything as long as I did it well.

So what was it that pushed me in this direction? I was very good in Mathematics and Humanities too. I wasn't actually doing well in Biology - wrong strokes in my pictorial depiction of the human anatomy earned me just about enough marks to satisfy my expectations. But that didn't deter my interest and fascination with the anatomy and the physiology of the human body.

I remember carrying this image of all the doctors we visited - the doctor sitting on the other side of the table and listening to the ill patient. Listening. Nodding. Listening. Asking leading questions. Listening. Smiling encouragingly. Pacifying the patient. Assuaging the patient's doubts. Listening. Touching the patient. Soothing the patient. Listening.

It's oft mentioned how half the illness is cured by just sitting in front of our physician in his room. I think I was drawn to this seemingly magical power that the demigod doctor seemed to possess. The power to bring a smile to a patient writhing in suffering. The power to assure another that his / her ills have a cure. The power of bringing hope to the patient. The power of listening and the change that it could bring about.

It might sound super-sentimental and crappy. But I truly think that's what led me to this profession. It wasn't about curing and taking credit for it. It wasn't about cutting and removing the tumor. It wasn't about changing a diagnosis and prognosis. It was just about being able to bring hope and a smile.

So why am I confused about my decision? I got disillusioned with the workplace and the environment I was a part of. There was a lot of passing the buck, a lot of insincerity around. I think, somewhere I became lax in my guard and got lazy too. I began to pass up the opportunity to be able to be proactive in a patient's treatment so that I could get those few extra minutes of sleep.

I succumbed to the hypocritic oath when I was supposed to remember the Hippocratic Oath.

I am not being harsh on myself. I am being honest with myself. And I can rest in peace only when I admit the truth to myself that I didn't turn out the doctor I meant to be.

What I will do from now on and how will I do it, what specialty I will take up, I don't know. But what I know is I am not going to let the fear of harming a patient by a procedure (when I can actually save him / her by being brave and using my hands and eyes) overcome me. I am not going to be lazy with an illness even if it has only a 1% chance of mortality. For, like Conrad Fischer put it so well - 1% mortality doesn't matter as long as you are not the person dying.

Tomorrow is Doctor's Day. And my 25th Birthday. I hope it spells a new beginning for the next 25, 50 or even 75 years of my life. I am hoping to start being the doctor I set out to be.


Meera said...

Beautifully written..straight from the heart! Most young medicos today can relate to this blog. We find ourselves at ethical crossroads very often, but when faced with the unenviable dilemma of choosing between a better life for oneself and fulfilling that inner desire, most succumb to the obvious.

Abinav Kumar said...

A :) is all I have for you!

Anyway. I am not much of a medical person, you see. So, I am curious which illness should I be afflicted with to come visit you?!

And that is a real innocent question, mind you! :)