Read This Book: In Shock by Rana Awdish

“If empathy is the ability to take the perspective of another and feel with them, then, at its best, the practice of medicine is a focused, scientific form of empathy.”

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For the past few days I’ve been devouring In Shock in every spare moment I could find. In her narrative, Awdish recounts the experience of severe illness and near-death on the background of being a physician herself. She shares almost “crossing over”-esque insights into how and why medicine is failing its patients, as well as its doctors.

In Shock is definitively part-memoir, succinctly conveying the many complexities of Awdish’s illness and survival. True to its intention, it avoids the traditional stiff-upper-lip clinical retelling, and allows for range of emotions experienced by the critically ill individual. It is a narrative not looking purely outwards, but also in. What Awdish distills from her experience is both poignant and pragmatic.

“Illness is viewed as an aberrant state. It is a town we drive through on a journey home, but not a place to stop and linger.”

In Shock is about medicine’s broken telephone. It is about our inherent, but often unintentional, disrespect for patients and ourselves. It is about seeking comfort in the wrong ways, and about righting our bad medical habits. Continue reading “Read This Book: In Shock by Rana Awdish”

This one time, at badEMfest18…

Remember that time I went to a little town (village??) called Greyton, with some friends, and had a blast?

It happened again.

This time, not as a student, but as a doctor. Then, Greyton enriched me. This time, it may well have changed my life. Or at least, my career. (Are they really two different things?)

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Continue reading “This one time, at badEMfest18…”

Mental Health Begins With Medical Students

Every few months, the mental health of doctors/medical students makes it to popular media. It seems like these spikes in attention occur, and everyone shouts YOU SHOULD CARE FOR YOUR DOCTORS! and then we write blogs and we tweet and we make youtube videos and eventually we go back to work, and nothing has changed.

I think we are the missing link. And by “we”, I mean qualified doctors. And also, you, the older doctors. Continue reading “Mental Health Begins With Medical Students”

To White Coat or Not To White Coat

If you live in the USA or many other countries, you may associate the white medical coat with a number of doctors. Short coats, I am told, are for medical students. The longer the coat, the more senior you are.

Evolution of the White Coat by Fizzy McFizz - click for link.
Evolution of the White Coat by Fizzy McFizz – click for link.

In South Africa, two groups of people wear the white medical coat as a rule: medical students and old-school professors. Continue reading “To White Coat or Not To White Coat”

I Hate Med School – And That’s Okay

Here’s a quick post-call ramble: I had a pretty bad night on call last night.*

And it was still better than medical school.

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Base Image by DearFreshman, click for link

I hated med school.

In first year, I hated the loneliness. I had went in hoping for intelligent conversation with the country’s cream of the crop and at least initially, I could not find it. What I found was a narrow-minded and selfish little campus, and I hated it. Continue reading “I Hate Med School – And That’s Okay”

DIY ≠ Change Agent – But Right Now, It’s All I’ve Got

My medical school always made a big fuss about training us to be “Change Agents” – so much so that I guess it sometimes became a joke to us. The idea was that we would be active role players in whichever environments we found ourselves instead of sitting back and complaining, but it often seemed like an unrealistic expectation, given some of the challenges we face in public healthcare.

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As I was reflecting on the past three months, I caught myself thinking: have I been a Change Agent? (And then I automatically almost scoffed at myself. I like the idea of being an agent of change but the term is so over-used that I have come to hate it.) Continue reading “DIY ≠ Change Agent – But Right Now, It’s All I’ve Got”

A Moment: The Nurse and the Med Student

She was a professional nurse at our hospital, not much older than me, and with no time during shift-work to see her private gynaecologist, she made the scary decision to come to the hospital’s gynae-clinic (scary because she would most certainly be seen first by an inept medical student before seeing the specialist).

Continue reading “A Moment: The Nurse and the Med Student”

On the Ethics of Treating Ebola (or refusing to)

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that “far more Liberian doctors are in the U.S. and other countries than in the country of their birth, and their absence is complicating efforts to curb what has become a global health crisis.”

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The article further documents the difficulty in getting doctors to treat patients with Ebola. This is not the first time I have read about something in this line – there were also reports of staff of the Madrid Carlos III Hospital staying away due to fear of Ebola. Continue reading “On the Ethics of Treating Ebola (or refusing to)”