I have experienced a wide spectrum of the health care ecosystem since childhood giving me a deeper insight into its future need. I suffered for 23 years with a wrong diagnosis and frequent long-distance hospital visits before my heart operation. For 14 years, I shifted through multiple doctors and hospitalizations for my father’s mismanaged diabetic complications, including a foot ulcer with cellulitis. My academic mentor said, “Your father himself is a Harrison’s medicine book,” due to his classical textbook complications.
Caring for my father has taught me more about medicine than my academic curriculum. I realized the role of active listening, kindness, humility, empathy, and patient education in healing a fellow human. I learned blood pressure (BP) measurement skills, subcutaneous insulin injections, diabetic foot care, and interpretation of electrocardiogram, polysomnography, and echocardiography. I gained confidence in managing his frequent fluctuations of BP, blood sugar, dyspnea, fever, weakness, vertigo, and chest pain when I had to treat it with my best knowledge and low resources. Learned the role of diabetic and renal diet and experienced his painfully disabling walking and visual difficulty due to diabetic retinopathy and foot. His daily intake of 14 medicines sensitized me about polypharmacy.
I realized how societal and economic factors resonate with sound mental and physical health. Learned when a family puts their efforts into the healing, that changes the healing trajectory. Experienced the pain and struggles as a rurally located caregiver that how inaccessible quality healthcare can put sick people in extreme distress without supporting hands. I had to visit large tertiary care centers in another country, taking financial loans for 12 years to find the cause of his recurrent fever. My mother got a heart attack while I was in another country treating my father and no nearby center was available to give thrombolytics or primary PCI within the window period. This positioned me to view the emotional breakdown of a helpless caregiver facing the economic burden and lack of quality care.
I prolonged my medical graduation while undergoing open heart surgery and caring for my father’s diabetic complications and mother’s post-MI heart failure. I can empathize with people requiring loans for treatment as I also had to borrow money from my relatives and colleagues. Our strained, uninsured financial condition led us to find low-cost generic drug vendors and health insurance companies to reduce our treatment and medication burden. This inspired me to work harder to improve our situation and be a reason for others to feel supported, cared for, and confident in my care. With a deep sense of patient problems, I committed to being helpful. I do patient advocacy to guide them through making online health records, receiving high-value, low-cost medical care, and crowdfunding for financial support.
The entire journey has made me curious, enthusiastic, passionate, focused, and a hard worker but also ignited a deep motivation to translate my desires into actions. I received fantastic mentors like Dr. Rakesh Biswas, Dr. Akshay Anand, and Dr. Amy Price, to name a few. I became an independent clinical researcher, medical writer, and journal editor and reviewer. I published over 50 research papers, book and book chapters, and 220 evidence summaries. I earned a Google Scholar citation of over 3000. I served as an editor of the International Journal of Medical Students (IJMS), Frontiers in Public Health, BMC Health Services Research, and reviewer of 13 medical journals, working as a scientific writer for the Joanna Briggs Institute, and visiting lecturer for the University of Adelaide, volunteering in social works, attending and presenting in conferences/workshops, mentoring students on research. I served as a leader in medical organizations nationally and internationally and thus built a large medical and scientific network and community to make a larger impact. I also won an Indian health innovation award helping last mile workers to get better training. I worked on USMLE projects, including contributing author of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK, which helped thousands of physicians-in-training for USMLE preparation. Finally, I was nominated as a full member of Sigma Xi, the research honor society, for a noteworthy contribution to scientific advancement.
Each turn and twist has allowed me to learn and grow, build enthusiasm and confidence, work harder and smarter, and help others. Whatever I gained from life has been due to the events that crossed my pathway. You gain more in the pursuit of solving the problems of others.
“There is a very interesting quote from our ancient scriptures, called Upanishads, that says that when you’re striving to do something for the welfare of the surviving, cosmic forces connive their way for you to succeed. Amazing things happen; you get help from places where you least expect it. In the end, you succeed because your mission is to make this world a better place to live for all of us.”
– Dr. Devi Shetty
Vivek Podder is a physician in Bangladesh.
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