Friday, December 03, 2010

On finishing medicine

Yes, that's right, all faithful followers of my blog (which I suspect there is none, considering I haven't been faithfully blogging...)

Sida is finally finished with medicine! Well, actually, as I'm typing this I'm still waiting for confirmation that I've passed my final exams. Due to be published by 5pm today.

On my first day, the Head of School said to us: "It will be a long, difficult year, followed by another long, difficult year, followed by two long, difficult clinical years... followed by a long difficult internship..."

If I had to summarise my 4 years in the shortest way possible, I think I would agree with what the Head said. There has been tears, there has been struggles...

I think back to the endless pages of pathology... endless warnings of "If you don't learn this or if you forget this then someone will die,"... endless lists of causes, diagnoses, investigations and management... drugs, doses, side effects, interactions... endless lists involving, it seemed, everything under the sun.

Then there was the human factor in it. I still have clear vivid images, in my mind, of various people I've encountered. The old dying man, sobbing by his bed. The placid (and flaccid) baby 4 hours before he died. The girl with schizoaffective disorder... the demons in her mind more debilitating than any physical illness. The parents of a young man in ICU after an overdose. The same young man, bleeding out of every orifice and vital signs plummeting before my eyes... then, the dead body, waiting to be 'pronounced'.

There was joys in it, too, don't get me wrong. But perhaps it's something in my character, or the character of the human condition overall... the joys are short lived, but the face of a dying baby haunts you forever. Suffice to say, it has been a long and difficult 4 years.

But now, I've come out of it... and I get the title of "Doctor". Perhaps I'm feeling a little tired and jaded, but that doesn't seem much of an incentive to me, and I'm not feeling particularly enthusiastic about using that title. I suppose it depends on who is using it and how you look at it, but there is something very humbling about that title. Doctor is someone who has seen your condition hundreds of times before, but is scared that she is starting to feel numb towards you and your condition. Doctor has been given front-row seats to human pain and suffering, and could do nothing about it. Doctor is someone whose every successful treatment is defined strictly within the bounds of protocols, guidelines, and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials. Doctor is expected to be human in her compassion, empathy and care. And yet, she is not afforded the luxury that is given to every other human: she is not allowed to make mistakes. She is expected to "know best".

Is it any surprise that depression, divorce, and alcohol dependency is so high amongst doctors?

Anyway, I digress from the point. The point is, I'm finished, and I'm a doctor now... not really the end of the journey, but the beginning. Naturally, I would give thanks to those around me (you know who you are)... who put up with me the best way they could. And I would give thanks to my God. Only You and I know about the bitter complaints I uttered to you, during my darkest hours. Only You and I know about the times when I wanted to let go, the backsliding, the childishness, the pride, the tears. You didn't let me go. And, if the past 4 years is any indication, Lord, then I'm going to need more and more of You.