AN ODE TO MARVELLOUS MEDICS
By Prithvi Gaur
The gleam of a tube light in the early 2000s after flickering for half a minute shone on the glossy pages of a book titled ‘Occupations’. Sitting beneath my study table, my 5-year-old self, focused on the page describing the role of a surgeon, the image of which captures the exact moment my decision to become a surgeon burgeoned. Not just a doctor, but a surgeon. This was quite a revolutionary decision for a member of a family which is a conglomerate of engineers. However, the novelty in my choice made me work every day on making my dream a reality.
The long intensive study hours followed by the stressful entrance exam and finally enrolling into medical school was even harder than people said it would be. Every person in my life discouraged me by highlighting the poor lifestyle and the bleak return on investment in the profession. However, I say with great confidence, it was worth every effort.
Nevertheless, there is some truth in the reasons provided for their discouragement to pursue this profession. The lifestyle we lead as medical students and doctors is grueling. Our job requires us to answer calls and pagers at ungodly hours and be available for patients at the expense of our own family and loved ones. Doctors work tirelessly, seen especially during the times of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to treat and save as many people as possible. Numerous doctors lost their lives serving patients during the pandemic, 798 exclusively during the second wave of the pandemic.1In spite of being unconditionally available for patients whenever the need arises, the incidents of violence against doctors are skyrocketing. Every week a new video surfaces, where a doctor is seen being beaten ruthlessly. In such devastating conditions, it is warranted to lose hope in humanity and give up. However, there lies an underlying beauty in service for mankind which can be seen from the work of myriad pioneers in the field, who have given and still give more of themselves to this brilliant occupation with each passing day.
Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, a surgeon, educator, and social reformer was born on the 30th of July, 1886. She was the first woman to be enrolled in the Maharajah College in Pudukottai and the Madras Medical College. She pursued further studies in London and returned to India. Once in India, she worked as a House Surgeon and also helped establish the Madras Legislative Council of which she was elected the Vice-president. In this capacity, she not only helped raise the minimum age of marriage for girls but also helped control human trafficking. She started the “Avvai Home” which was a haven for devadasi girls and now shelters homeless young girls. She also founded the “Adyar Cancer Institute”, the first of its kind in South India. She was a pathbreaking woman of her time who devoted herself to medical care and battled gender norms, transforming the lives of many. Her birthday is now celebrated every year as “Hospital Day” by the Tamil Nadu government.2
Dr. Bindu Menon, a neurologist in Vellore, spends her weekends in the remote villages of Andhra Pradesh treating patients, particularly those suffering from epilepsy and stroke, free of a cost as a part of the initiative “Neurology on Wheels” by her foundation “The Dr. Bindu Menon Foundation”. They provide neurological care and free medicines to the villagers while spreading awareness about various neurological ailments like cysticercosis. This initiative is the first of its kind in the field of neurology. She believes that “at the end of the day, being a physician is all about serving other people.”2
The battlefield too is not left unconquered by the medical fraternity. During the Korean War in 1950, the 60 Para Field Ambulance commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A.G. Rangaraj, demonstrated unparalleled bravery. Serving for three and half years, the longest single tenure served by any unit, “The 60” treated approximately 200,000 wounded and performed 2,300 field surgeries on not only Indian soldiers but also the foreign soldiers. They also trained many Korean doctors and nurses. The men and officers of the unit were awarded two Mahavir Chakras, six Vir Chakras, one Bar to Vir Chakra, and 25 Mention-in-Dispatches making it a record-breaking event.3 The bravery displayed by choosing to save the lives of others while risking your own with such ease is aspirational.
These accounts of community service highlighting the importance of selflessness in the duty of a doctor are just the tip of the iceberg. Numerous doctors dedicate their lives to improve the lives of their fellow humans. Dr. Aeron, performs plastic surgeries for burns patients belonging to the underprivileged sections in Mussoorie, Dr. Otzer screens and treats cervical and breast cancer in women of the Nubra Valley in the Himalayas and Dr. Parmar provides all and every type of healthcare in the tribal areas of Maharashtra despite specializing in
gynecology.2 The benevolence of these people acts as fuel for the medical fraternity when they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the available literature, the long hours of duty, or the callous attitudes of patients.
In March 2021, on a flight plying from Bangalore to Jaipur, a woman onboard went into labor and needed immediate medical support. This was provided by Dr. Subahana Nazir and a healthy baby girl was born midflight with no harm caused to the mother. To be skilled enough to provide help in the most unexpected and dire circumstances, when everyone is at a loss, provides a sense of unparalleled accomplishment.4
I believe that the medical profession is synonymous with selfless service. It may be difficult to execute this thought most times given the current scenario. However, it is imperative to focus on the bigger picture and draw inspiration from those around you. Even as medical students, we are bound to be without hope, emotionally drained and we may even experience academic frustration since there is always more to know. It may be comparable to the horizon; it is seen from a distance but is unattainable. Therefore, we must not trivialize our hard work and role in society. We are blessed with the opportunity to touch and better the lives of not only the patient but also their relatives. The opportunity to do that day after day, for the rest of your life is an honor that makes this profession a noble one.
Fundamentally, a doctor is required to only make a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate drugs to the ailing. However, in reality, doctors also provide social and mental support to the patient and their family. They also play a key role in the social upliftment of the community. The returns of this profession may not necessarily be monetary but the emotional satisfaction it provides is unmatched. Bettering the lives of people, making them capable of performing their daily activities, and seeing them achieve their dreams, that is the reward of this profession.
The skills that we develop as doctors and the vast variety of opportunities that the medical profession provides, help us make a significant difference in the community we live in. Being young members of the medical fraternity, it is now our turn to execute our responsibility in society. We should capitalize on our
exposure and help make the delivery of healthcare more equitable, accessible, and technologically sound. We should also work towards connecting the medical fraternity on a global level and provide for scholarly exchange to allow for the administration of the best possible care in every corner of our country. Taking inspiration from the pioneering work of our predecessors, we should strive to be better physicians and provide for our patients
to the best of our ability, subsequently helping the community develop as a whole, towards a brighter future with limitless opportunities.
1. 798 Doctors died during second wave of COVID-19 across country: maximum lost their lives in Delhi:IMA. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/798-doctors-died-during-second-wave-of-covid 19-across-country-maximum-lost-their-lives-in-delhi-ima/articleshow/83974877.cms [Accessed on 30 June, 2021] [Updated on 30 June, 2021]
2. Inspiring Doctors. https://www.dailyrounds.org/blog/tag/inspiring-doctors/ [Accessed on 30 June, 2021]
3. D.P. Ramachandran. The doctor-heroes of War. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the doctor-heroes-of-war/article17529390.ece [Accessed on 30 June, 2021] [Updated on 19 March, 2017] 4. ‘It’s a girl’: Woman gives birth onboard IndiGo flight. https://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-in-india/woman-gives-birth-mid-air-indigo-flight enroute-to-jaipur-7232210/lite/ [Accessed on 30 June, 2021] [Updated on 18 March, 2021] 5. Source of Images: Google Images