Materia Medica Malaysiana

April 6, 2007

Many becoming doctors for wrong reasons

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 6:44 pm

Brunei Times: WITH his quick mind and love of puzzles, the medical genius works through an unconventional medical testing and symptom elimination process, aided by his shrewd, instinctive understanding of human nature, to diagnose a patient’s condition.
His success rate is high, amazingly so, although his bedside manner is practically non-existent. Meet Dr Gregory House, of the medical drama House, currently one of the most popular TV doctors around.
He is also one of the popular medical myths misleading students about the profession.
“The lack of communication skills is the biggest complaint against local doctors,” says Malaysian Medical Council member Prof Dr Zabidi Azhar. “You need to like people and have a caring character, as well as be able to communicate well.”
Another myth, he adds, is that to excel in medicine, one would need straight As. “It is true that you need to have some brains to be a good doctor but the fact is, a flat four CGPA (cumulative grade point average) does not make a good doctor.”
However, given the growing number of students with a 4.0 CGPA, the admission process into medical school has become an annual circus. It does not help that some students even treat studying medicine as their god-given choice.
Malaysian Medical Association branch chairman Dr Kuljit Singh is another who is of the opinion that exam results may not help medical students.
“Many of those who score a 4.0 CGPA are result-oriented. But are they good when dealing with patients?
“Except for the few who are all-rounded students, many do not have interpersonal skills. To be a doctor, you are required to deal with emotions and feelings; patients are not machines.”
For a final-year student who only wants to be known as David, the lesson has been slow but well-learned: “I came into the programme with the idea that all I have to do to succeed is to slog but now I’ve come to realise that it is only half of it.
“The most important thing is to develop good people skills. You need to communicate well. And you need to want to help people.”
Students have to know what they are really interested in and why they want to do medicine, says Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia medical faculty dean Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Saim.
“For example, is it because they want to help cure people or because they like learning about diseases? If they are interested in diseases, maybe they are better suited to medical labs, not to hospitals.”
For a fifth-year medical student who only wants to be known as Amira, medicine was not her first choice.
Although she has not had trouble coping with her studies, she admits that she has had to motivate herself to learn things:
“I was more interested in pharmacy but my parents advised me to take up medicine. When I first started my medical course, it was difficult because I was not that interested.
“I advise those thinking about it to really examine if they have a passion for medicine before enrolling.”
Medical academics concur that interest or passion is a matter not to be taken lightly.
According to cardiologist Dr Ong Hean Teik, who wrote The Life of a Doctor, a guide for prospective students and their parents, those doing medicine for other people usually don’t make good doctors and are depriving the ones who are truly interested of a place in medical school.
Universiti Putra Malaysia medical health sciences faculty dean Prof Dr Azhar Md Zain agrees: “The best doctors are those who are really keen on the vocation, not those who are in it for reasons they are imagining or not clear of.
“It is a tough job being a medical student and then a doctor. It also does not pay as well as other vocations if you compare head to head.
“So, only true believers in the profession, and those with love for the sick people with the right attitude and minds will succeed. Those who lack this will not do well. They will get through but cause heartache to themselves, their families and their patients.”
Dr Leticia W, who graduated recently, advises prospective medical students to take up something else if they cannot tell themselves honestly why they want to do medicine.
“It’s a calling. If you are pursuing it under another person’s influence, or because of other superficial reasons, you are better off pursuing something else,” she says, adding that one does not need lofty aspirations to be a doctor.
“You don’t have to be driven by dreams of saving mankind or finding a cure for cancer.
“Years of medical school have taught me that you need to be grounded to be a good doctor it is hard work and sometimes unrewarding. Other times, it takes small things to make it worthwhile, like getting a relieved look, a smile or simple ‘thank you’ from patients after you have allayed their fears by simply talking to them or just listening to their worries.”
The Star/Asia News Network

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