Medical schools have been known to be an exclusive and prestigious faculty that people always think highly of. However, with all the perks – from social status to promises of high income brackets – is a medical degree just an exaggeration or is there actually something that makes it special?
Medicine is a profession that started early
I remembered sitting in the lecture theatre for my first class at Melbourne Medical School and one of the first sentences from the director of the faculty was “being a medical student is the same as entering the profession”. Although it might sound ridiculous, as time progresses I began to gain the realization of how spot on that statement was. Some people started treating me differently, asking many problems regarding their health as if I am already practicing for years. The funny thing was that they were equally aware that I was in the first week of my medical degree, which was orientation, and would most likely not have any idea on what they were asking. Well, having the slightest chance of getting a free medical consultation without actually going to hospitals wouldn’t hurt right?
Although at first I felt obliged to answer and felt sorry every time I could not find an answer, I later realized that this is an important exercise to realize my limitations and stay humble as a medical student and later as a practitioner. Doctors are never meant to be God that knows all the answers for all medical problems in the world. It has been an infamous paradox in science that the more we know, the more we don’t know. However, on top of the knowledge limitations that can still be difficult to overcome, one thing that cannot be overcome is the interdependencies between doctors and patients. Being a doctor is like playing puzzles and despite doctors being the one that puts all the pieces together, it has to be acknowledged that most of the pieces are derived from the patients. By the end of the day, it is their condition, they are the ones affected and they are the ones who felt the symptoms, but it depends on how deep the doctors want to dig into it.
The center of the universe is the patients, not doctors
Doctors might be an integral part of the multibillion-dollar healthcare industry with countless dollars spent each year to ensure better access and quality of medical treatments to everyone. However, truthfully, none of these will exist without any demands for it. Taking this to a micro-level, what is a doctor then without his patients?
There was a talk at the start of the academic year in Melbourne given by an inspiring woman affected by Thalassaemia, who is also an advocate and researcher in the area. Thalassaemia is a genetic disorder displaying potentially lethal condition where those affected are unable to have normally functioning red blood cells, causing it to be destroyed by the body, which can caused enlargement of other organs – such as spleen, liver, marrow – some of which are removed as they are prone to rupture. Consequently, not only that those affected rely on blood transfusion every 3-4 weeks, they are also susceptible to various other complications, such as due to immune-compromised conditions. She shared how these conditions have made her vulnerable not only physically but at times emotionally. Hence, she need a great team of doctors who are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also those who are approachable and can communicate well with her. It sticks vividly in my memory how she said that there is no point of continuing to see a doctor that she cannot connect with, as it is really her that needs the audience, assistance, and support – not the doctors.
Patients’ psychological and emotional states are often like the forgotten child yet an important one. As a volunteer at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, I have seen week after week how patients demonstrated their frustrations, sadness, and a sense of worry due to their health impairments.Consequently, as a current medical student, I can’t help to appreciate the fact that this is an ongoing challenge in medicine. I believe that as a doctor, it is my prerogative to walk the walk with my patient. Having build good rapport with each patient, I am aware or more than happy to assume that it is my duty to give my patients my listening ears, support, reassurance, and motivations to help them go through their difficult times. Researches have definitely shown that improved emotional states contribute to the resolution of illnesses.
Medicine is an opportunity in a rapidly changing world
We might often look up the clear night starry skies and imagine how big is the portion of universe totally unexplored by humans. However, if we look closer to ourselves, there are still numerous things that humans are oblivious about their own body and how alarmingly overwhelmed we are by the rapid change in the diversity of human pathogens. One of the most disturbing examples is antibiotics resistance. Who would imagine that from the development of the first antibiotic, Penicillin, in the 1940s, we could have hundreds of different antibiotics today. Penicillin, once regarded as the miraculous drug, is now only remembered as part of history. Even with the numerous drugs we have today, it is worrying most of the antibiotics are unable to treat multi-resistant bacteria. It is even more disturbing to know how doctors play a role in the increasing resistance. Some do prescribe antibiotics inappropriately. Some don’t have the audacity to educate patients on the importance of complying with their prescription to minimize risk of developing resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is only one of the many global problems closely related to medicine. Even problems, such as refugees, gender inequality, racial discrimination, and ongoing political turmoil, all have their health implications that medical students have the opportunity to contribute their knowledge and be advocates for the cause that we choose to care about. I first-handedly see, through my attendance in AMSA’s (Australian Medical Students’ Association) Global Health Council, how passionate these medical students are in talking and raising awareness from various different causes that they care about. I am impressed on how they are willing to set aside time from their busy study commitments to do some good for a wider community. Medical students are really placed in an interesting part of the community where we can have the stage to share different perspective on a myriad of ongoing global issues, so I believe that it is important to be aware of it and take advantage of the opportunity.
In the end of the day, I can safely say that there are more things in a medical degree other than all the packed timetable and lecture contents, which makes it special. Stripping things to the basics, it is the opportunity to closely interact and help individual patients, watching their progresses, and the opportunity to contribute to a wider society as a healthcare professional that made me proud to be a medical student. To close things off, I read a quote released by Stanford Medical School saying, “The stethoscope is one of the prime symbols of patient care and the practice of medicine. The great thing about the stethoscope is you have to be close to your patient to use it. This is your chance to truly interact with your patient.”
Content Director: Steven Tannason