The Daunting Challenges and Opportunity Galore for Aspiring Medical Undergraduates

It was a Sunday morning like every other, until it wasn’t. We were waiting on my father to come back from the doctor’s appointment to launch into the weekend plans, when we received a call from my father’s ophthalmologist saying he was having a heart attack and had passed out in the street facing his clinic. Everything after that was a blur, of ambulances ,concerned neighbours and wailing relatives. Through it all , all I remember is my mother’s  countenance. After a brief moment of trepidation and  emotion , the strength and composure with which she handled everything. In that moment she was nothing but a doctor. And that is all I ever wanted to be.

It’s one thing to be determined about something and another to actually achieve it. It’s a road full of scattered thorns and blooms on the way to becoming a doctor. For all the 13-lakh applicants who take the NEET pre-medical test, averagely less than 5000 actually get in. Which is ironic , considering that we have 1 doctor for every 11,000 patients in India. Retrospective to this a small country with resources far less that ours Cuba has a doctor: patient ratio of 1:170 , one of the highest in the world and has been lauded by WHO to be one of the best medical systems in the world. With Indian medical education system becomes the largest in the world, a policy change is needed particularly as the Indian reservation system creates an imbalance and inequality among students from various backgrounds, when it was designed to resolve the same. Coming to the lucky ones(or not so lucky) to be admitted , coping with the challenges of the first year, swimming and succeeding through them can be a herculean task, especially when you don’t have the comforts of home cooked meal to sooth those brazen nerves.

It’s not easy to maintain that mettle when the stench of formalin ambushes your nostrils. It’s quite a show with already a few fainting interludes between. It’s surreal, seeing the cadavers for the first time, registering the fact that this was a person not unlike us, had it not been for dedication to science or the unfortunate hand-to-mouth life they had. It stems partly from the unavailability of expert teachers and more so their willingness to teach. Safe to say I have been blessed in that regard with excellent mentorship throughout. The paucity of good patient flow at some canters is a major detrimental factor in training. Its another story when you find patients hell-bent on making a joke of you with histories straight of a Bollywood movie. Many are yet to update their technology as per the global standards. Moreover absence of adjoin and in-house post-mortem facilities often cause students to fall back to rote learning trying to grasp blindly at the fundamentals of forensic medicine.

First years’ often ask themselves, ‘Am I able enough?’ and the final years’ that ,  ‘ will I ever know enough!’. And the cycle never ends. The maze of purples, violets and pinks rarely let you have an eureka moment trying to discern one histopathology slide from another. Neither does the immense data of facts and figures PSM throws at you. Its easy to lose track of our goals and burnout with lassitude trying to haggle academic excellence with the Leisure’s of social life. The catacomb of tongue twisting and tying drugs make you question at every step whether this is for you, with every drug you pursue dripping out of your brain like water from leaky plumbing. This has created a widespread problem of depression leading to substance abuse among the students , in their fight to keep afloat. Truth to be told medicine is like the mighty ocean , not the calm serene , but turbulent and tempestuous waters. I sometimes find myself drowning trying to swim to across.

But It’s not all  grim study sessions and grey days. Medical science is all about overall personality development and holistic nurturing of an individual . We are taught the golden rules of empathy , communication and effective time management early on in life. Once we’re through we’ll be able to breeze through the craziest of days balancing a tray full of thing on the little pinkie finger. We get the opportunity to train under world class doctors , the very best and the brightest minds of the age. It gives the real time experience early on as to what to expect from the future. As far as India as a resource is considered it’s an unparalleled where patient flow is considered. It is a goldmine of cases to review sharpening our diagnosis acumen early on. This is evident  from the success of Indian doctors worldwide. The best example being the deputy director general of WHO Dr. Soumya Swaminathan.

One cannot deny the financial stability the profession provides. Where opportunities are concerned there are no boundaries and sky is the limit. No department is unimportant, no area of science is out of reach. The sea water calls you for a dip, go into diving medicine. Intrigued by the universe, accompany the astronauts as their on-board physician. Interested in helping out your younger lot, teaching is an effective way to connect with students and guiding them through the delicacies and difficulties of the subjects. My boat would have gone under just past the shore had it not been for my revered mentors at Geetanjali college and hospital. I am forever in debt. We have one doors to excel in the field of medical research with the world community coming together to share and discover medical breakthroughs. CME’s and research presentation seminars are becoming increasingly advance nowadays with more and more of us aiming to enter research trying to find answers to the problems that plaque us. For there is no bigger mystery than the human body.

Having had the opportunity to observe the lead surgeons of my college, I observed them day after day doing the impossible and my resolve strengthened, ‘That this is it. This I wanna do’. After that I can chalk out my five year plan with optimistism but also with caution knowing that will ultimately face complications testing me on the way. I have been told a Whipple is hardest procedure a general surgeon performs. I hope to be trained as the master of surgery from the prestigious John Hopkins department of surgery with a few Whipple’s in the bag. The quest to succeed will never overshadow the passion to help others. My work with doctors without border having taught me that for people less fortunate , a doctor is equivalent to God not only God sent. It’s humbling.

Medicine is a naturally creative endeavour , committed to progressive action driven by hands in discovery. Perhaps that is what Hippocrates meant by ‘art of medicine’. In words of the esteemed Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, ignited minds of youth is the most powerful resource. Who better than the ignited determined unserwable and prodigal youth to cruise the cataclysmic expanse of medicine. An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. When life is dragging us back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch us into something great. That is what I tell myself. So just focus, and keep aiming. Until u can say, ‘Scalpel please’.

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