Thursday, September 13, 2007

Getting through the year...

It is now 4 weeks til the end-of-year exams. I have 4 weeks now to revise 30 weeks of content, memorise the drugs, micro-organisms, stuff like that.

I havn't really started yet. In fact, I am putting it off, by blogging. As you can undoubtedly see. I'm being scared by the people around me: they are all better organised than me, smarter than me, and have started revision already. I was putting it off, thinking I could get away with it...

I just want this year to end, so I can go on holidays and sleep all day. My enthusiasm and motivation (which I had at the beginning of this year) has decreased exponentially - the only thing that is keeping me going (ie, staying in med, studying) is my inertia. We all know that in physics, motion caused by inertia eventually ceases due to friction. How the heck am I going to get through the rest of my degree?

I must here devote a little paragraph in gratitude to my bible study group. Those kids are wonderfully unsympathetic - and they make a joke about everything. I made a comment about dissection lab and they didn't stop joking about it for 3 weeks. They force you to laugh at yourself, at those around you, and at your situation. Although my bible study leader keeps telling me that there is no point in trying so hard to get into medicine and then let it get you depressed. I think my problem is that I'm not depressed enough - if I'm depressed at least it will make me motivated to get my act together.

Ohhhh wells. Back to it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Heard Dr Charlie Teo speak last night

Last night the famous Dr Charlie Teo came to UQ to deliver the annual (and 50th) E. S. Meyer's lecture... and of course I couldn't pass by such an opportunity. To those who don't know, Dr Charlie Teo is a very famous neurosurgeon who, to put it concisely, developed a new method of doing neurosurgery that is shunned by the general neurosurgery profession. In order to raise awareness of this new method, he has appeared on TV on numerous occasions. As far as I understand (since I don't actually watch TV I am only speculating about this), in his TV appearances he gave the impression of putting down other Australian neurosurgeons, which of course made him no friends. In response, the Neurosurgical Society of Australia made an advertisement in The Australian that described him as a "self-promoter". A very ugly saga, as you can imagine.

The lecture he delivered was entitled What doesn't kill you... makes you stronger. He took this opportunity to expound upon the importance of thinking outside the square. He gave numerous instances of times where his method had succeeded where traditional methods have failed. At this, I must admit to feeling some cynicism: so that is what they mean when they say he is a self-promoter, I thought. But then I realised, he wasn't promoting himself (although it seemed there was a small element of pride present, I thought), but he was promoting a method that he obviously felt would be of great benefit to patients. If nothing else, it is obvious that he is very passionate about his work - and surely, if he feels that this method is going to save lives, then it is natural that he should feel the need to go to radical measures to gather support for it. Dr Barry Marshall drank bacteria, Dr Charlie Teo goes on TV and speaks about it at every opportunity.

Being only in first year, (and having not even done the neuro block yet), I can throw no light upon the controversy. However, I'd love to hear the other side of the story. What are the differences between the endoscopic surgery (promoted by Dr Teo) and the current use of microsurgery and keyhole surgery? If it is so good, why are neurosurgeons slow on the uptake of this method? (Surely it's got to be more than just simply pride or laziness?) If there ever were going to be a public debate, I would love to be there.

I have mixed feelings about his approach, however. I haven't seen the television appearances myself, but I do know that his statements would sound as if he were criticising the competence of Australian neurosurgeons. What does this do to the profession? How exactly does this help the patient, who doesn't know what to believe and who to turn to? In a profession where trust is absolutely crucial, what does this do to the trust between patient and doctor? In medicine, the idea of self-regulation is important, where the profession "police" themselves. This question was posed to Dr Teo at the end of the lecture, and he answered remarkably well - when the profession's ability to self-regulate fails, that is when the public has to step in.

But my question remains - if he had done things differently, if his comments were not so easily misinterpreted, would there have been a better result? After all, understandably, people do not respond well to a private doctor going on TV to say "Well, I think I'm the best".

My reservations aside, there is one thing that is remarkable about this man, and that is his zeal toward his work and to his patients. And if his surgical methods are as good as his indicates (and I think they are), then they will undoubtedly eventually become the norm - and I feel excited and honoured to be a witness to this progress.

Well anyway, that concludes my spiel. As exciting as this is, I don't think I could be a neurosurgeon. Playing around with people's brains... gives me the shudders.