Human Interests and Social Pursuits

The Truth: A Good Doctor Treats. A Great Doctor Heals!

At the threshold of my medical career: lessons learnt from a great doctor

The first of November 2018 was a day I had been looking forward to. It was the day immediately after my last exam in the first session as an MBBS student. From the time I joined the medical college on August 1, 2018, I had been drawn into a whirlwind of terrific activity, both academic and otherwise, and had just been waiting for the sessionals to culminate to take a breather.

But the reality was in stark contrast to my dreams. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a bad cough, a terrible headache, a very high fever, and chills. The hostel caretaker promptly whisked me off to the Medical College Hospital, accompanied by a friend. It was a frightening experience to find myself admitted hundreds of miles away from home in such a state. My head was bursting, my body ached intensely, and my throat was so sore that I could barely swallow.

I lay on the hospital bed in the students’ wing, totally oblivious to what was happening around me. Only a faint memory of a couple of jabs remains. I recall receiving blood samples and intravenous fluids, among other procedures.

Then came a powerful experience. I heard a voice; it was so firm yet gentle. So confident, yet so soothing. So cheerful, yet so full of empathy. And then a touch… A gentle, loving caress—just like a mother’s. I opened my eyes and gazed into the face of my treating physician. She was neither beautiful nor ugly. There is nothing spectacular about her physique or her attire. But what a warm, radiant countenance! Looking at her, I suddenly brightened up. She instilled such hope and confidence in me.

She examined me deftly, gave orders to the nursing staff, and then left, giving me another gentle pat and a word of comfort. I was too sick to remember what she said, but I distinctly remember that her words always filled me with hope and optimism.

Swine-flu. That was the eventual diagnosis. My parents were far, far away and extremely worried. She took my mobile phone and spoke to my mother through a video call. What words of comfort and reassurance! I could see my poor mother brightening up. I, for my part, had been feeling dispirited and dejected that my mother would not be able to come by my side, as she herself was recovering from a recent surgery. But her words really boosted my morale and made me feel secure. Under her skillful supervision, I improved steadily.

Her expert treatment brought me back to my feet soon. But more importantly, she taught me a great lesson I will never forget. A good doctor treats. A great doctor heals! I, too, must be a great doctor one day.

The 7th of November 2018. The day of my discharge. It was also Diwali Day. As I bid her adieu, I told her: Diwali is the festival of lights. And the light you have lit in my life this Diwali will never fade away.

As a medical intern, I encounter countless patients every day. Every patient has their own unique story. I do try to reflect that light I received over 5 years ago and ignite a little spark of warmth and hope in the lives of those I encounter.


Jeanne Maria Dsouza

Jeanne Maria Dsouza is a medical student from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India. She is an avid writer and has published poems and prose in newspapers and magazines. She is passionate about art, literature and medicine.

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