By Dr. Sushila S. Fonseca
Panaji, July 27, 2019: Many youngsters strive to join the medical profession because it is a noble one, giving health and hope to suffering fellow men. A few join because they have scored the marks and for them to enter the corridors of medicine is to attain a prestigious goal.
Whatever the reason, medical students soon find out that a medical career is, indeed,a noble profession but that the journey of a medico is arduous. The course is of four and a half years, followed by a year of compulsory internship and in some places even compulsory residency. So, it turns out to be a long and difficult course which quietly swallows up your youth!
Each year of the course is challenging and often nerve-racking. In the first year of medical college, students must adjust to a new environment and new friends and at the same time master the art of studying independently and quickly. The subjects cover a deep and vast amount of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry –the basic subjects of medicine, with cadaver dissections and biochemical and animal experiments and there is no time for squeamishness! Constant evaluations also keep the students on their toes.
The second year of the course follows; students visit the clinics and wards and are exposed to patients with serious illnesses. The patients are men, women and children who come to the hospital looking for succour –help for and relief from their complaints. For a young physician to be, this is the beginning of the learning curve of the sufferings of humanity,.
The final year of medicine is the toughest and most challenging one. Students concentrate more on their studies and can hardly be faulted if they examine the patients as ‘cases’ because the ‘case’ for them changes from day to day.
Having got through the final year, the internship programme begins. The work assigned varies from ward to ward. Usually, it means that the intern works as a doctor but the responsibilities are of the resident doctor in charge.Unable to prescribe for serious illnesses, the intern soon learns that a kind word of hope goes a long way to set the patient on the road to recovery.
During the course, young medicos soon realize that human-beings are all the same! The mechanics and parameters of the human body are the same whatever the race, caste or creed! The aspirations, too, for cure and good health are the same!
When medicos graduate they are equipped with a degree, which allows him to work independently. It is then that reality sets in! Young doctors must make decisions alone and on the spot. Sometimes doctors may refer to a much thumbed textbook and now, more recently, Google and online papers but the final decision about treatment is the individual doctor’s and that is when it dawns on them that the great responsibility for the patient’s life rests on their shoulders.
A quick decision is required and it will be responsible for the direction the patient’s health and future turn it will take! It is a decision that affects not only the patient but also his/her whole family!
It is at times like this, if not before, that we, doctors, realize that nothing is possible without God’s help and guidance. On occasion, we are even blessed to be witness to the inexplicable cure or miracle!
As we practice and mature over the years, it dawns on us that if we practice our profession to the best of our ability, we are simply following what Jesus showed and taught us to do! To be kind and compassionate and to use a healing touch.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus described how to be kind. In His adult life, Jesus showed compassion and healed many people.With his hands Jesus touched the wounds of the lepers and the eyes of the blind; He cured the man with palsy and brought Lazarus back to life by calling out to him. So, in their day to day work, doctors give witness to Jesus.
When we, doctors realize this, we also appreciate the great responsibility and honor bestowed on us to be a doctor of medicine!
(Sushila Fonseca is a consultant, pathologist, author of fiction and non-fiction (both types related to social and medical themes) and former general secretary Indian Medical Association Goa State.)