Our current module has graced us audience to some of our city’s orthopedic surgeons, two of which I have come to admire: Dr. Embay and Dr. Medina.
Dr. Embay was our first lecturer and listening to him talk about the clinical aspects of fracture, osteoporosis, and arthritis has opened my eyes to the interesting world of orthopedics. Who would have thought repairing fractures was interesting? I did not. Dr. Medina was our last lecturer and hearing stories from him of cases of potentially fatal clinical errors reminded me of the magnitude of the responsibility of being a doctor.
We are like God, our teacher told us in class one day, but we are not equal with Him. And I suppose he is right. Doctors are able to manipulate a person’s body towards an outcome. Advancement in research and technology has widened the spectrum of things that a doctor can do. Creating cure and possibilities for a patient and eliminating sickness and disease has never been both easier- because we have at our disposable thousands of research, better equipment and drugs to combat illnesses with (which is why it is easy to understand why some doctors would think highly of themselves with every victorious outcome)- and more challenging because as our knowledge on medicine improve and increase, so do the illnesses we fight against. Furthermore, the large void of uncertainty we owe to chance remains despite years of simplifying and breaking down the complex functioning of the human body. That same teacher in one of our PBL sessions told us that it is but arrogance to pronounce how long a person with a certain disease has left to live. We are not God, he said, some patients die despite our best efforts. Some outlive their grim prognosis. And it is for that very reason that I believe that there exists a God. Otherwise, things would never make sense.
Sometimes I see myself as a full-fledged doctor assessing cases and making decisions for my patients and I am filled with fear: possibilities of misdiagnosing, making a call too late, overlooking lab results, and the like. At the same time, I am reminded that I can never be independent of God’s grace. Not when I am the lowest in the class or even the brightest. It is only by God’s grace that I am able to achieve anything. It is only by God’s grace that doctors are able to achieve anything at all- whether they believe in God or not.
But here I am once again pondering the question: what reason am I in medical school for? When times are smooth-sailing and the only worry I have is not being able to read all the learning issues in time for the next PBL session, the answer is clear as day. When exams approach and I find my preparations inadequate or when I am reeling from a failing mark on my modular exam, I find myself struggling just to even remember. They say it is normal to lose sight of your goals when you are in medical school. The important thing is that you keep something you can go back to when it happens like a note, a letter, a Bible verse, or a friend to remind you why you are there to begin with and why you should keep going despite the difficulty. But sometimes, you begin medical school for extrinsic reasons and certainly that makes keeping an eye on the destination challenging, more so to keep walking. This is when I suppose you walk anyway despite what you feel. Looking ahead towards the destination. Putting one foot in front of the other. To persevere even without inspiration. The answer will be found along the way.