”The presence of the doctor is the beginning of a cure” – the proverb goes. The art of healing patients begins at the moment the patient sees the doctor, not only when the medicine is prescribed. The practice of medicine is a combination of knowledge, compassion, and love for the people we treat and fellow human beings in general.
Since childhood, the idea of treating people has inspired me. The house next door to where we live was given for rent and most of the time, doctors used to occupy it. They used to see patients at home as well. During the summer school vacation time, I used to stay with the doctors during their working hours at home. I had the opportunity to see them interact with patients, provide them comfort and give them medicines. The patients used to return for follow up and thank the doctors for the help and care they had provided. I could see the gratitude expressed clearly in the patient’s eyes and even though I was a child, my mind was able to comprehend how well a doctor can change another person’s life for the good.
The interest in the profession took its initial roots from there. When I was 12 years old there was an incident that further strengthened the interest for Medicine within me. One night my best friend’s dad collapsed, the doctor next door administered CPR and he was taken to the nearby hospital immediately. Further, we came to know that my friend’s dad had suffered from a myocardial infarction popularly known as ”heart attack”. I was intrigued by this and wanted to know exactly what it was and the doctor explained it to me in a way comprehensible for a child of my age. The working of the heart fascinated me. The intricate way in which our organs work; how a doctor can change another person’s life with timely action; all these intensified my interest in Medicine.
My interest in Internal Medicine started growing in the early years of Medical School. When the clinics started in the second year, I found myself drawn towards the Internal Medicine ward more than any other specialty. Puzzling diagnostic problems which would fall into place with a specific examination finding. All of us are made unique and hence, though two patients may share the same disease process, two treatment plans can not be the same. The doctors who taught us were veterans in their respective fields. Every day they used to have case discussions of patients in starting from diagnosis and treatment of illness to offering support and counseling. During my student period, I always made sure to see as many Internal Medicine cases as possible. Our medical school was always conducting seminars and conferences of which the internal medicine department took a great interest to participate. I had the fortune to participate in state conferences as well. Another thing I found interesting about Internal Medicine is that we can take care of all the patient population. There is no restriction to any age group or gender.
In my third year of medical school, we had postings in a community health center. When I was working there, I came across a patient, he was a fisherman, and he had come for the refill of medication for his hypertension. The doctor in charge asked me to examine him. Examination of his system showed Mitral Regurgitation. I was asked to write him a referral letter to the local hospital for further evaluation including ECHO and stating that his financial condition is poor. Weeks later I saw him in our medical school, he was referred to our institution for surgery, while I was speaking to him he took out the old referral letter which I wrote from his pocket and thanked me for helping him out.
I have always felt a particular liking for AIDS patients because they are always socially discriminated and the stigma surrounding AIDS even in this 21st century also is to such an extent that a diagnosis of AIDS means social death. During my internship period, I saw many HIV-positive patients. As tuberculosis and HIV go hand in hand, I saw many patients being treated for an extended period of time and our consultants helped them through their ups and downs. Once again I was enlightened to the fact that humanistic qualities are important in a doctor treating patients with such a chronic disease surrounded by social stigma. As a part of our posting in internal medicine department three of us were sent to work in an AIDS hospice. The learning experience there was beyond any textbook knowledge that we garnered over the years and the summation of the time I spent there has helped become a better doctor and a better person I am today.
I have always believed that doctors should not be anyone’s judge – don’t think as to how this person got this disease. A patient should always be treated with the same care and compassion, no matter what the disease is or how he/she contracted it.
The medical school I studied in is a charitable institution as well, catering to the needs of underprivileged sections of the society. I was a part of numerous camps that our Internal Medicine department had conducted which encompassed giving free medications and further follow-up in our hospital; by doing this we were able to reach our medical care to all the sections of society, notably the tribal population in our state. The health condition in the tribal areas was far worse than I had imagined – poor sanitation facilities, malnourished children, symptomatic but undiscovered cardiac problems in children and adults alike, various forms of oral cancers, and so on. With our constant individual counseling, health education sessions and poster campaigns we were able to instill the importance of medical care in their minds.
To speak to patients and families when they are helpless the most is a challenge that the medicine has provided. To help people take decision regarding the treatment modalities: which is best for which patient, to have help people take end of life decision, comfort the immediate relatives and ease the passing of terminally ill patients. My interpersonal and communication skills were polished and developed during this period of time. I was able to establish a good relationship with many patients who were under our care during the internship. They all touched my life as much as I was able to touch theirs.