Sushil Jain and I grew up together in Indore, a provincial city in Central India. We were classmates for about a decade and I have known him from the time when both of us were about 8 years old. Sushil is now a cardiothoracic surgeon. I remember him today because unlike anybody else in our school class, he was from very early on sure about the career that he wanted to pursue. From as long as I can remember he wanted to be a doctor, just like his father.
Sushil chased his dream with a single minded focus, prepared hard, appeared for the Pre Medical Tests, failed once, tried again and eventually succeeded in joining the medical college in Indore. He worked hard and graduated, tried a couple of times for admission in a post graduate course, failed and tried again. Finally, he trained to become a surgeon and is now well into surgical practice in a hospital in Indore.
Sushil is one of those rare doctors, who believe medicine to be their calling. The reason that he toiled hard has very little to do with the financial rewards that a career in medicine offers. It has everything to do with the rewards that the power to heal brings to an individual.
When I was young, medicine and engineering were considered to be the choice of the sharpest and the finest students in a school class. Medicine was considered a career of choice, simply because the respect that our society accords a doctor. Medicine was also considered a safe career choice from a financial point of view. Most parents wanted their children to either study engineering or medicine and actively encouraged them to take these up as a career. Peer and parental pressure often pushed youngsters in these fields. While the selection process comprising of a written test followed by an interview was rigourous, It wasn’t too difficult for bright students to crack.
Often those selected for a course in medicine had no aptitude or understanding of the demands of their future profession.The selection process in most medical institutes hardly ever tested a candidate’s aptitude for medicine. I know of many doctors, who have passed out from medical schools and than have sought alternate careers simply because they were just not cut out for a career in medicine, many drop out of medical school during the undergraduate course itself and some continue and become what I call reluctant doctors. There are only a handful, who truly dedicate themselves to the art and science of medicine, who join because they believe it is their calling.
Our medical schools churn out a lot of doctors, who are just not cut out for a career in medicine. They have the right degrees, but not the right attitude nor the compassion and empathy that must go hand in hand with the knowledge and practice of medicine. They have the skills, but not the burning desire to go the extra mile to bring succor to the sick.
These thoughts come to me today on reading about how some doctors turned away a sick child and her mother from their door simply because they had gone ‘off duty’. These are doctors who have become numb to human suffering, who have no regard for the traditions of their noble profession and who believe that being a doctor is same a a clerk working a 9 to 5 shift in a government organisation. I would bet that these are doctors, who were once bright students and who chose medicine under parental and peer pressure, who knew nothing about what they were getting into and now they find themselves trapped in a career that hardly looks as promising as it did in those heady days.
I wish someone had counselled them years ago. Today they might have been better off in a more suitable profession and somebody else, far more deserving would be treating a sick child who turned up at the clinic during the ‘off duty’ hours.
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