I became a doctor a long time ago...at least that’s what I feel. I guess the reason being that the process of learning is just very lengthy. But of course, I have no complaints. Rather the complaints that I did have a while back, as my other colleagues who will read this article will know, have considerably reduced. Becoming a doctor is more frustrating than challenging. I think whatever challenge exists is how to overcome the frustration that unavoidably engulfs you over the years of learning! I think I might have learnt just how to do that, like many others and thus I still remain in my profession. I remember the day I got my degree. It was an overwhelming and powerful feeling. The fact that I was finally a graduate was an awesome feeling. But it doesn't end there for many people, and neither did it end there for me. I wanted to learn further and explore different fields that existed. I had my options, fields which I had prioritized during my learning years. I wanted to become a physician. But then again, it wasn’t going to be that simple. Rather it had become tougher. Just when you think that you came, you saw and you conquered you get a hard blow and poof it all vanishes. Like the lakhs of students who have to give entrance exams for admissions into their field of choice, I had to do the same. It was tough. And I never got through, neither the first time nor the second time. But, fate did have plans for me. I got a call from a university stating that I had achieved a decent rank in their entrance exam and that I was being offered dermatology. I didn't even think twice. I was going to become a dermatologist.
My years of learning dermatology were extremely fun. No matter how cliched it sounds, my department was like heaven and my teachers next to God. They were the ones who were there during my formative years and I say this with lack of modesty that they have done an excellent job. I have never been able to receive the guidance and the love that I got from them and I think that makes the whole experience the most memorable one in my career. I learnt that dermatology was not only about treating pimples and wrinkles but it was also about life shattering diseases. And the diseases were not only physically disabling but also emotionally disabling. I feel that one can give a set of crutches to a man who cannot walk but what can one do for a man who has both his legs and can walk but is mentally and emotionally hurt. Those 2 years did change my perspective a lot. My complaints decreased, though they still had not completely vanished. I had actually started treating people and making a difference in the way they lived and thought. I suffered from terrible acne when I was a teenager and I still recount very vividly how it affected me. As a teenager, the time when it’s all about looking good, I used to feel miserable. All my friends had flawless skin and here I was stuck with pimples as big as hillocks. Something as small and trivial as acne can be such a social stigma that I could easily relate to the countless number of patients who came to me for that reason. My world opened to people suffering from leucoderma to psoriasis to leprosy. It was truly an eye opener. I would be lying if I say that I developed overwhelming compassion after seeing all that. It isn’t an overnight process and I confess that I still haven’t reached that far. I learn how to be a bit more compassionate everyday more than how much I was yesterday. I still lose my patience. I still get angry and more than anything I still get frustrated for not being able to treat many of my patients completely. And at the end of the day, I have learnt to deal with my frustrations. I have learnt that it is not only about treating the disease. It’s far more than that. It’s about treating the person. It’s helping them deal with the situation and overcome the situation to look beyond where the road ends.
I graduated in May 2008 and finally settled in Mumbai. I desperately tried to get into a Municipal college so that my sphere of experience could widen and I would be able to learn more. Again, success evaded me. Because the municipal hospitals run on certain age old conditions, I was denied admission since my degree couldn’t satisfy those conditions. Finally after a 3 months long waiting period, I started working in a big corporate hospital. Until date, I was dealing with people from the lower and middle class societies and all of sudden I started dealing with the rich, page 3 class of Mumbai. It was a completely different all together. They had the same problems and dealt with them differently. But what I realised is that a skin condition that can severely hurt a poor person can also affect a rich person and cause the same mental and emotional trauma. Even though these people had all the money they were still paupers when it came to their health. They were equally helpless. I mostly dealt with patients who had cosmetic problems. A problem, as small as a single pimple on the face or a single mole in the wrong place, was highlighted in neon signs. It was quite annoying at times. But again I learnt to deal with that. After all, a problem is a problem. It might seem small to some and big to some others. As a doctor, I learnt to respect and not to judge. I vividly remember this one female patient who was so obsessed with her looks that she could go to any length to get the ‘perfect’ skin. Let me assure you, there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ skin. It’s all about your perception. According to me, the race for the perfect skin is merely an illusion with no finish line but only agony and pain. I remember the patient wearing tattered shoes but getting expensive procedures done over and over again and yet being dissatisfied with herself. As a doctor, I feel that we need to draw a line for the patient. I found out that such type of narcissistic behaviour existed more in this class of patients. And I found out that you could either draw a line for them or let them go, because anyway, the moment you stopped listening to them they would opt for another doctor.
And then I managed to get into a Municipal hospital and the experience was mind blowing. I dealt with below poverty line patients, homeless patients and dying patients and every time I learnt something new. It’s the patient who me taught me something new every day. If it were not for the countless number of patients who have skin problems and who come to us, we doctors would never have learnt. I am richer today in knowledge than I ever was and hope that this experience continues. I have learnt a lot after I started worked in that municipal hospital. I learnt how not to lose my patience and temper. But I must say that I’m still imperfect in that area. I have learnt that you just need to give 2 minutes of your time to make the patient feel better. I have learnt that patients still consider this profession a noble one although I would be the biggest critic if someone said that. Patients come from all over with all the hope that they have in, an effort to get cured of the disease by some doctors who they consider GOD! I feel that it is my duty to make sure that though they can’t be cured all the time they can be emotionally healed. My effort to be better at my work continues. My effort to make a difference continues. Although in today’s fast life I tend to forget my vows at times, I make sure that they are not totally lost.