Pursuing a career as a physician: A reminder why

Last week, I spent a few hours completing an online module for one of my immunology courses. The purpose of this module was simply to expose students to the format of lecturing and assessments that would take place throughout the length of this course.

The portion of the module that I found really exciting was a series of videos depicting scenes at a local clinic where a physician examined a patient with psoriasis. Although learning about the biology behind the condition was intellectually stimulating, the video reminded me once again of my purpose of pursuing a career as a physician: to educate patients while comforting them, treating them, and giving them the courage needed to tackle their condition.

Our program is geared towards instructing its students in cellular and molecular immunology. The video taught me about some of the intricacies of psoriasis, which I learned, is an inflammatory condition with both a genetic component and an environmental component. In the video, the physician, a dermatologist, played the role of both a comforter and a teacher. The condition had been a major problem in the patient’s life for about 30 years. While interrogating the patient about changes in her condition, the physician succinctly explained the varying causes of her symptoms. Physicians go through years of rigorous training in science courses; however, it is important to deliver pieces of the medical knowledge in a simpler fashion, one that can be easily comprehended without any understanding of medicine. I was inspired by how the dermatologist executed this with such ease and without using medical jargon.

In doing so, I noticed, he accomplished two very important feats. First, physicians serve the role of an educator in addition to being healers. I am interested in academic medicine, because I believe it is an inherent responsibility for physicians to circulate their knowledge throughout the community in order to promote good health within their respective societies. The most effective way to accomplish this would be to simplify medicine into a language that can be lucidly understood. Second, and more importantly, knowing the reason behind the symptoms also served to put the patient at ease. Simply identifying the causes of symptoms puts patients in a more comfortable state than one filled with doubts.

In the remainder of the session, the physician learned more about the lifestyle of the patient and how it has been affected by her psoriasis. The same patient can experience different degrees of psoriasis on different days. For example, on the day of her visit, the patient noted that her condition had subdued for the time being; however, she complained that she sheds a lot of dry/dead skin when the condition is at its worst. The physician addressed this issue and empathized with her. In fact, he even mentioned how challenging this must be for the patient’s spouse or anyone living with the patient. This interaction reminded me of how diseases can often be tangible to the patient and his or her family. The dermatologist in the module was a stellar example of a physician who not only deals with the condition and puts his patients at ease, but also understands the difficulties that patients and their families face on a day-to-day basis.

Medical clinics can often be more than just a haven for patients to find treatments or cures to their problems. As a future physician, I place a great amount of value in giving patients the information needed to properly understand their conditions. More importantly, I want to give them the courage needed to face, and make sense of, their illnesses.

Sangrag Ganguli is a graduate student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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