Updated: Jan 3
I have enough compassion to help another in need, but it honestly wasn’t reason to study medicine or surgery. I am curious and adventurous, I love power and I have a need to be needed. That’s what’s in it for me.
Compassion could well be the driver for someone to choose medicine. I just believe that the opportunity to serve humanity exists everywhere. Even outside the world of doctors, firefighters or the military, we all save one another everyday albeit less tangibly. Let’s say you needed surgery, you called me on your cell phone and drove to the hospital in your car. Whoever designed your phone or built your car helped you get the care you needed too. They’re not serving you any less than I am; nor am I any more than the person sterilizing my instruments. Glorifying the “ helping and serving” motive alone would hence be a narrow-minded perspective. There’s a lot more that medical education gives you, if you’re open to discovering. You don’t get through the rigorous years of a surgical residency, it you don't draw from and thrive in what it has to offer to you, as an individual.
1) It’s Adventure:
Divers can relate to this. It’s not enough to know the world above the surface. There’s a whole world under the skin. Fascinating systems that work in perfect synchrony. Every so often when they malfunction; they are still amenable to repair. I get to wander, work and play in this place that few will ever get to see. Over time this has become the world where feel most at home, yet the sense of adventure and excitement continues.
2) It’s Theology & Philosophy:
Fear of death often fuels study of God, hope for heaven, re-birth and the likes of it. I’ve channeled my personal fears of suffering and death towards study of human biology. I’m no expert on life and death, but I get to study it real close. It’s perhaps what psychologists call intellectualization. Everyday I study human resilience and weakness, turmoil and tenacity of relationships and reorganizing of priorities when life becomes “finite”. I don’t know of any philosophical curriculum that gives you such an intense study opportunity.
3) It’s Empowering: I’ve done this. I opened the chest of a 7-year old trauma victim in the emergency room, held his heart in my hands and massaged it to regain a pulse. I’ve then gone and told the mother that I failed and couldn’t save him. I’ve then come back and closed up what is now a body, while teaching anatomy to the medical students. When I’m talk about empowerment, I don’t speak of power one wields over another life; its power that simply “is” the experience. It's the doing of what one believes one could never do, that which needs to be done.
4) It's a larger identity: A starfish can regenerate its broken limb, a human cannot. For a moment though think of humanity as one organism. It then has a remarkable ability to repair itself. It teaches it’s own units called doctors, to fix its faltering elements. This system can recycle blood and organs, incorporate artificial elements to replace diseased parts and even test out and select healthier progeny. It’s fascinating to think yourself as a part of a larger human ingenious.
5) It meets a need to be needed: Whether its in our individual relationships or the relationship we have with the society around us, most of us have a need to be needed. Any behavior that can be worded altruistically as “helping” “serving” or “rescuing” still meets this very personal need. I like to be where I feel needed and the profession gives me plenty of that opportunity. It shapes social relationships to my advantage.
The medical profession in India has been through a recent phase of intense cynicism, given issues of violence at the hands of patients, unfair treatment be law enforcement agencies and dismal living conditions of resident doctors. A lot of doctors are saying they would advise their children against pursuing medicine; and understandably so. Yet it compels me to think back to why I became a doctor and what I get from it. I can only admit, “I did for me” The hypocrisy of believing otherwise, would have been shattered with a pelted stone.