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The world is filled with various professions. But perhaps the most significant among them in terms of its direct impact upon human life, is the profession of a doctor. There’s a special kind of people who call themselves doctors. I wonder, whether they know what that term doctor really means. I wonder whether they actually, genuinely, realize the gravitas of the responsibility that they take upon themselves, by becoming doctor. What is it to be a doctor? Is it about merely knowing deeply, empirically, about biology, sickness and health – or is there much more to this so-called divine profession! So, let’s find out together – what is a doctor – and what is the real purpose of such a glorious title? What is the mission of a doctor?
Though I do not officially practice medicine, because I am in the field of mental health, I receive many queries from patients as well as doctors from all over the world on a daily basis, regarding various mental issues. I am not a doctor – I am a scientist – a scientist with deep concern for the well being of the global society. But you’d already know that, if you have read my works. I don’t practice medicine, but I do try my best to advise on issues of the mind, as a friend – and I mean, as a friend, which means I don’t take any money for whatever little time I can provide to clear the confusions of the some of the individuals who correspond with me.
And the very first thought that appears in my mind, upon closely examining the psyche of patients and doctors, is that to be a real doctor, it is imperative that while acquiring knowledge of medicine and biology, one must also foster the mentality of being a doctor. Because, being a doctor, is not simply about having an understanding of anatomy and sickness, rather it is about having an understanding of true wellness and more importantly, it is about understanding the intensity of the concern of the patient’s next of kin. The purpose of medicine is not to postpone death, but to improve the quality of living. Hence, a doctor’s mission should not be to prevent death, but more importantly it should be to improve the quality of life. Being a doctor is unlike any other profession on earth. Being a doctor is the closest real thing that we can have on earth to being a God with the power to sustain life. Gods are imaginary, but Doctors are not. They are actual living beings on earth, with the actual expertise of give life to others. The responsibility of a doctor is higher than any other kind of responsibility. Because, the human society does not rely on any other professional, to such a gigantic extent as it does on doctors.
The very first lesson of becoming a doctor is that, if you have very little patience, then you should not even think of becoming a doctor, because you may acquire all the knowledge about medicine and anatomy, but without the fundamental virtue patience, you can never in a million years become a Doctor. Patience is the golden virtue in doctorhood. Without it, no matter how many medical books and papers you memorize, they will not make you a real, effective and genuine doctor. So, what could define a genuine good doctor! After all, good doctors is what the society really needs, not some pompous bookworms with stethoscopes. And if you can’t be a good doctor, then there is no use of being a doctor in the first place – be anything else but a doctor. Because doctorhood is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you think you are good at studies, and that makes you qualified to be a doctor, then you couldn’t be more wrong my friend. You can go into medical research with that attitude, but not in medical practice.
There is a subtle yet quite radiant distinction between medical research and medical practice. Medical Research is about understanding the anatomy in a better way, and discovering new gateways of sustaining and nourishing life. But medical practice on the other hand, is about putting that understanding in practice, which involves real humane encounter with patients. Mind you, o conscientious doctor, patients are not your clients, they are the gods whom you took an oath to serve for so long as you live. The moment you put that apron on in your mind, you dedicated your life not to the benefit of your own, but to the benefit of your society – the benefit of people. It is the divine law of service that you promised to keep, even in the midst of utmost difficulty. And the moment you fail to abide by this divine law of service, you would no longer remain a doctor, but simply a mockery of the medical profession.
This law – the law of service – the law of benefiting your patient beyond any personal gain, is not a pompous philosophy to boast about, but the bed-rock of doctorhood. And if you want benefit of your own, above the benefit of your patient, then you should better go into business, not in medicine. Mind you, here I am not talking about self-denial, for it is an impossibility, rather I am simply talking about not taking your comfort and luxury to be more important than the well being of the patient, not just the physiological well being, but psychological as well. And I am pretty much aware that this is not at all an easy job. That is why I mentioned in the very beginning that patience is the golden virtue in doctorhood.
A doctor should be a clown at heart, a scientist at brain and a mother at conscience. This means that a doctor should be cheerful, insightful and caring. Being cheerful does not mean always being funny, rather it means to be aware of the seriousness of a situation, and still keeping calm. Being insightful does not mean knowing everything about sickness and health, but to have the common mental maturity and capacity to accept when you do not know something, or to accept a mistake if committed. And being caring does not mean flattering or pampering the patient, but to genuinely take the well being of the patient to be of more concern than the well being of your own. And these three principal faculties of doctorhood grow stronger in time as you keep fostering and practising them. However, on the off chance that you fail to truly practise them, despite all wishes and efforts, then you should have the basic courage to leave medical practice and go into research, for the betterment of the society.
No good can come out of denying the self. Therefore, if it is really in your soul to be a doctor so that you can do real good quite literally in people’s lives through direct interaction, then by all means, give your heart and soul to the service of humanity by learning and practicing medicine, but if that practice seems too much of an effort for you and you can’t keep up with the pressure and constant nagging of the patients or their dear ones, then be brave and leave the practice. Mind you, practice of medicine is a profession for patient souls, not rash intellectuals. A patient doctor is a real doctor, an impatient doctor is no doctor at all.
What is Mind?, 2016