A little detail about me before I begin this post : I am going to be the first doctor in the whole of my family, immediate and extended family, near and far relatives, paternal and maternal side, everything included. Literally, the first.
So obviously what little knowledge I had about this field, during my pre med school years came from watching the doctors I’d been to in the past. I knew when I was 6 that I wanted to become one too.
So during each visit to the doctor’s clinic I’d watch them with awe at the way they’d put the bell of their stethoscope on my chest asking me to inhale deeply. Or the gentleness with which they palpated my abdomen when I complained of a tummy ache. The precision with which they looked at my posture and made a diagnosis of chondromalacia patellae (it’s a knee condition that I have, as a consequence of my flat feet).
How many kinds of doctors do you think I would have gone to in the 17 years of my life? I can count them on my fingers. A paediatrician, a general physician and an orthopaedic surgeon. Add a general surgeon and an obstetrician to that list to for good measure.
And so for the longest time I thought when you say “doctor” it’s either one of those things. Anything else, was beneath this degree. Oh what a naive kid I was.
Came med school and slapped me a paradigm shift. I realized how things in this field work. It’s not each doctor by himself cocooned in his own department. We are all a team working together for the betterment of our patient. A surgeon cannot confirm his suspicion of a tumour without a diagnosis by the pathologist.
A surgeon cannot do anything if the anaesthesiologist decides to not turn up to the OT that day. What good are drugs that a physician prescribes if the microbiologist doesn’t tell him if the bacteria are sensitive to them or not? Every orthopaedic surgeon needs a physiotherapist to help him rehabilitate his patients after long periods of immobilization.
And what can I say about a radiologist that the long line of patients outside the waiting room can’t? Every day they get patients referred from all the other departments to give them a glimpse of what is happening on the inside of a patient’s body. And yet, sometimes in spite of extensive imaging we can’t find the cause for the patient’s distress. Enter: Department of psychiatry, because a disease with no symptoms, is a disease in itself.
A trauma specialist and a forensic expert ; one to immediately manage an emergency and prevent death, the other to look into the cause of death and let the others know so we don’t make the same mistakes again. History repeats itself, but that’s not a liberty we are granted.
Wait, I jumped the gun, didn’t I? To become these big shot doctors all of us have to get through first year of med school don’t we? What would we have done if not for our professors of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry? Hell, even those formalin clad cadavers have played their part well.
Nobody is above or below anyone else. Not one branch is boring or less important. We are a well oiled machine working day in and day out. Every form that’s filled, every signature made, every diagnosis confirmed is teamwork deciding another human being’s life. Or death, for that matter. We are all in this together, all equally responsible, all equally important.
Med school has taught me a lot of life lessons. But this is probably one of the greatest.