Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The "Doctor Question"

A colleague recently asked me why I didn’t consider becoming a doctor. She said that I have the discipline, the mental capacity, high respect for medical professionals and I just love hospitals. Well, she is right at some degree, but she missed something vital.

I haven’t given that question much thought ever since I entered college, but the answer is pretty simple. I feel I couldn’t excel in it. I’m not the type of person who engages well in human interactions. I like to help people though, but I’d rather be a faraway philanthropist who is very research oriented and back-office type, not like doctors who are required to talk to patients while throwing in sympathy and occasional contact. That for me is stressful. By the end of the day, I would be two times drained compared to being stuck in my computer figuring out a particular business model or research. I know myself too much.

Well that is my primary reason. The second is that I simply don’t like people to depend their lives on me, great emphasis on the “physical caring” part. I’m not good with my hands. Aside from Math, art is one of my hellish subjects. My hands are heavy and clumsy. It’s different if I’m stitching or making something out of nothing,. No one would get hurt. But examining other people by contact is a totally different story. It clouds my decision making skills and it’s a primary source of stress. It’s either I would chicken out or consciously diminish my patient base with my erratic and less than ideal behavior towards people.

And the most obvious reason is that I have a thing with math. I didn’t even seriously consider studying a medical course because of it. I knew math will always be packaged in the curriculum. I may like the theory and science part, but definitely not the math. If my passion is not that strong enough to face the grueling math part, why bother?

But my parents upon knowing that I have a potential with science, but an attitude with math still secretly hoped that I might enroll in a medical field just like what my best friend did, who is by the way a doctor now. But fortunately I didn’t. And to make matters worse, my sister who is much better in math skipped entering medicine too. I’m sure my parents were disappointed at some point especially when children of their colleagues take up medicine like it’s a trend. There must be a glistening honor to have a child bearing the title of a certified doctor. But even though they were disappointed, they accepted our choices and they never forced us to get into anything we didn’t want. My mother, upon realizing it, knew that I would eventually fail in becoming a doctor because of my personality. When it comes to my sister, it’s quite obvious that she greatly excels in something else that is far from the medical field. My sister and I never did regret missing it, nor did we ever dream in becoming doctors. Even if that is the case, my parents still have one hope in my brother.

Now, they never hide their wishes for him to become a doctor. In any casual conversations about our future my mom would say, “JD will take up medicine, right?” and to think that he’s still on the verge of entering high school. Sizing up my brother, he has a great potential to be one actually. He is smart. He is resourceful. We couldn’t count his medals anymore, plus he blends well with people (if he likes). He has this charm that I lack. He has a discipline that my sister lacks. He could be a great doctor one day, but then again those comments always fall short to him because his concerns nowadays are to hog the internet first, play online games while mastering his tests.

While I went with Mitch to Makati Medical Center for his monthly laboratory exam this morning, I couldn’t help remembering when I underwent a sensitive check up a couple of months ago. The resident that was assisting my doctor was my batch mate in high school. Her face or physique may have changed slightly, but I’m always good with familiar faces. While I kept answering questions of my doctor, she kept writing down my answers without a hint of recognition. Probably she couldn’t recognize me in the first place since we never interacted, but I was the one who felt weird there. Assessing everything now some of my friends have become doctors already. My best friend now receives impromptu emergency consultations from me over the phone. It’s weird, but I’m proud of nevertheless.

After Mitch’s lab exam, we crossed to McDonald’s to have breakfast. There I saw a couple of residents and doctors donned in their white lab gowns having their breaks. While I was waiting for Mitch at the table, a girl came into my view and looked at my direction. With what she was wearing, obviously she is either a resident or a doctor. Her face painted an inner confusion if she should say hello to me, while she was trying to make sure that it was indeed me. I could understand that part because I greatly look different now compared to when I was high school.

That school mate of mine and I were never close, but she helped me with Algebra one quarter when we were seated beside each other in freshman. We didn’t actually kill each other, I even appreciated her teaching me algebraic shortcuts, but we didn’t share anything personal either. From what I can recollect she is smart and generally kind, but not the type of person I would hang out with. To make it a little weirder, my sister and her younger sister are like BFFs. After a quick nostalgic moment, I stared at her for a couple of minutes and shifted my gaze on Mitch.

It’s better that we didn’t say hello at that point because I wouldn’t know what to say to her. I’m not a fan of small talk and we really wouldn’t have anything else to talk about. But it’s good enough to know that I see her doing well. In fact, realizing it now, her personality fits into being a doctor. Well, not necessarily my doctor, but I feel she would turn out to be a good one. I wouldn’t be surprised 20 years from now if she makes a name out of herself. She is pretty and charming which will draw patients to her. She is good with interactions even though she just pretends it when she has to. She is smart and good with math. She has what it takes to be a doctor.

I’m not saying that all aspiring doctors should have those traits to become great. Doctors also have varying personalities which they can learn how to integrate with what is required of them. All I’m saying is that a great fit of personality helps in its success. Doctors in all fields should have passion in the medical field that is true. They also should have the skill and the mental capacity to mix the Feel and Sense aspects, but having all that without the right personality might make it a little bit stressful. That is why when I observe my best friend, my batch mate and some doctors out there, their personalities may not entirely jive with each other, but at some point they should have important traits in common. People Skills and Passion. Some can sum up passion, but some may never have the right people skills. It’s not surprising though that some doctors out there are doubly stressed and would have a more difficult time excelling in their field if this was the case. It’s just something that they have to accept and work on. But just imagine me if I got into medicine. I hope now some people understand why I didn’t.

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