Why are You a Doctor?
STRANGER: It's better for your health to leave your window opened. You let in fresh air. PERSON: Why, are you a doctor? STRANGER: No, I am a thief.
Lets take the comma away and ask the question again “Why are you a doctor?” or “Why become a doctor?” In view of the last posting about the uncertainty within the life of a doctor these questions are good questions. DB’s Medical Rants picked up my last posting and posted another doctor’s view including an example of the uncertainty which commonly occurs and what good can come from a tragic result. Read the comment. A visitor to Rants then asked “can you point to something you’d say makes it worth [becoming a doctor]?” An excellent question. I wrote on that blog the following answer:
I don’t think about why I chose the medical profession. It has been my life for almost 50 years. But if I thought about it, as I am doing now, I guess it had to do with joining as a human being a unique profession which is given by society tremendous challenges, responsibilities and permissions to other humans and which is given to noone else. We can hold the comfort but also the life of others in our own hands. We are different than the airline pilot or bus driver who is responsible for the life of many but that also includes their own. When we save a life it is not because to do so saves our own life. And I think that difference is important. But there is more to wanting to be a doctor than society’s approval. There is the good feeling from doing good to someone but also the wonder and excitement (even to the point of raising gooseflesh) of making emotional and spiritual contact with your patient. This kind of “closeness” with another human being, which is possible as a physician, is just plain remarkable and fulfilling.
I think it would be very interesting to read from other physicians either on my blog or DB’s Medical Rants their personal answers to “why did you become a doctor?” ..Maurice.
Addendum 5-31-05: Not only does piloerection ("gooseflesh") occur to doctors who recognize that they have made a real contact with the patient but according to the
essay by John Bayley titled LARKIN, PYM AND ROMANTIC SYMPATHY", he recalls the example of piloerection developing on identifying real poetry: "A. E. Housman's famous claim, made in his Cambridge lecture 'The Name and Nature of Poetry' that he could only tell real poetry – but then he could tell it at once – from its physical effect on him. If a line of poetry entered his head while he was shaving his beard bristled up and resisted the razor."