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Medical Students' Column

"Tell Me I Have Been A Good Doctor" - A Reply

"Medicine is like an onion- you peel it one layer at a time and then you weep."
- Charles Lamb paraphased.


It has been a comfort to know that there is at least 1 person who went through the same process as me - wondering whether I made the right choice entering medical school. There are times when I just felt like quitting. There is so much knowledge to acquire, so little time for friends and so little respect from patients and their relatives. It used to be a breeze learning new stuff in junior college, being able to juggle schoolwork with extracurricular activities. Suddenly, I found myself having difficulty coping with the numerous diseases and their management. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m suffering from early onset dementia. It doesn’t help that tutors keep reminding you that you are supposed to know this and that. The fear of failing the final MBBS exams is always there, lingering at the back of my mind. Looking at my friends from junior college enjoying their university life, always makes me wonder whether all these sacrifices for the sake of medicine are worthwhile. The amount of hardwork we put in now as a student and next time as a doctor - to what end? In the process of caring for man, I find myself slowly losing contact with my friends. Often they will call me up for gatherings and I will find myself in a dilemma. One part of me wants to spend time with them and an opposing part will remind me to do my write-ups. Still I persevere, reminding myself why I did medicine.

Medicine is not a glamorous career. How can it be when you rush from patient to patient collecting blood from them? It is also not a high-paying job (it is not even listed as one of the top ten highest-paid careers). Taking into account the amount we earn and the amount of time we put in, we are actually earning peanuts. Then why do so many of us choose to walk this arduous road? I guess it is the love for man. I knew that I chose medicine because it seems to be the only career that combines my love for science and people. It is always nice to be able to comfort those old patients. Their smiles and thank-yous really make my day. On the other hand, unreasonable patients always make me wonder why I have to put up with them. The public never ceases to air their complaints about our shortcomings. As they become more affluent, they expect more from us but they have never stopped to think how much less they have given us; less respect, less pay (compared to graduates from other faculties) and less time.

Everyone will ask you, "What are you going to specialise in?" Their faces change when you tell them you are going to be a general practitioner. In their minds, GPs don’t save lives but in my mind, a GP practises true medicine - to save sometimes, to heal often and to comfort always. A more than fair exchange for any doctor, I think.

4th Year Medical Student