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Doctors with borders

Doctors with borders


May  2020


There are many things a doctor is expected to learn without being taught. Empathy, ethics, statistics, management, people skills, language, accounting, and more...

Doctors realize, usually later in their lives that many times, these are as important as the subject itself. People active in the field of medical education are working towards reforms to include at least some of these in medical training. One new thing that needs to be added to this is dealing with geographical borders; and defining our identity as a doctor based on these

The anatomy lessons where dissection lays bare the most visceral features of the human body, pharmacology tutorials which teach how drugs work in all human cells; the pathophysiology of disease that is the basis for worldwide practice of medicine and the surgeon who cuts across the imaginary lines drawn by society as much as the tissues he must to reach a point of cure; all are a testimony to the fact that the human race is just that; human. All other monikers, divisions, identities and definitions are either given to us by society or by our own selves or, both. If disease is the great leveller; so is the hope and relief that the world of medicine can provide. Illness, suffering, healing and treatment do not discriminate; they respect no boundaries or limits of place. This is why though the formats of medical education vary across some countries, the commonality in teaching systems, curriculum, and the near universality of the Hippocratic oath override it.

The doctor is a person first. Many of us, if not all, have our own set of prejudices, misconceptions and dogmas about these identities even before we begin the pursuit of medicine. Like all other human beings; some of us cling to those; some of us begin to believe more strongly in them, and a few others embark on the journey to let them go. Irrespective of which group we belong to however, the practice of medicine humbles us enough to realize, that those beliefs are beyond our practice of medicine.

Our own education systems, national policies and medical training repeatedly introduce the concept of geographical border, and language often in hugely divisive ways (reservations, preference in seat allotment, groupism in hostels, fights bordering on clan wars and more, as most medical graduates will confirm); what endures is that these borders never come between us and our work; even if they sadly, sometimes, manage to divide us from our colleagues and friends. Taking all patients as equal, we pledge not to discriminate on the basis of religion, caste, race, etc and allow all patients the benefit of our expertise. Knowledge sharing and imparting of skills across barriers is what makes the fields of medicine and therapeutics global, a trend that continues past our training

It is thus, very strange, that it takes a

pandemic, where we should have maximum solidarity for each other to have to define ourselves according to the states or the region we belong to.

Having been born, brought up and lived in Delhi for the first 24 years of my life, my heart belongs to the city; and the city’s to me. It is the place which is closest to me, the city for which I was homesick for months after leaving it. The link with medicine goes even deeper. With doctors as parents, the world of medicine and its practice was also hugely familiar. My father, first having trained in Delhi, was faculty of two most reputed medical colleges of Delhi, Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC), and Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC). Teaching and mentoring medical students was part of his routine work in addition to caring for hundreds of patients thronging government health facilities. Talk about patients, disease, and even studies was routine at home, but, never was it discussed in the context of religion, state, etc.

Living on, and around, the campus of these two colleges in Delhi, at different points in my school life was followed by the absolute privilege of attending LHMC for my medical degree; and then training at The University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) for post graduation. These experiences provided an opportunity to be close to different patient profiles, modes of administration (State run/ central govt), and the baggage those things brought. But, never did we see these affect the working of the medical fraternity, interaction with patients and their caregivers, and the practice of any of the multiple fields of medicine. My association with the health care system, especially the government sector is also a matter of pride because of my father’s contribution in the same. Guru Nanak Eye Centre, a premier eye hospital of Delhi, and the entire country, is where he worked for the majority of his career, and lead the institute , and its growth, before retiring as its Director.

Life takes turns and my career immediately post my training was in Bangalore. Fond memories both of the personal and professional front… it was here I began to apply my training, found my niche and lovely mentors as well as friends, and also where my children were born. Beginning a career as well as a family, are perhaps the most important milestones for many of us; and Bangalore has the sweetest of spots reserved for itself in my heart and my memories; but it could never usurp the space that Delhi had carved for itself

Choosing to make a life and raise a family in gurgaon was a decision made easier simply because it was near to Delhi! Working in Delhi, meant a little bit of me got to see a little bit of home at least sometimes; the connections with my old life could remain as I tried to build my new one..

When people ask me where I am from, the answer, is, and will remain, Delhi; much to the surprise of my children, who seem to no such feelings for Delhi or attachment, save it being the home of one set of grandparents. When my children answer the same question with the answer “Gurgaon” , I realize they are right, and maybe I should also answer the same. After all, that’s what the loan mortgage letter says, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t sound right..

But now, I understand, I am no longer a delhitie enough? Neither is my father, because he also chose to make his post retirement home is one of the suburbs surrounding Delhi? Or my mother who practiced in various parts of Delhi and established herself in her chosen specialization.

How effortlessly each paper that proved our right to healthcare in the National capital came to us; starting from my birth certificate, to the medical degrees; interspersed with passports, licenses, bank documents and the likes.. Equally effortlessly, we gave up those documents when it was called for, and exchnegd them for ones with our new addresses. Never did we realize that those would be a requirement in the days to come, or their absence had the power to render us ineligible to avail the benefits of the very health care system that we trained in, worked for, developed over years, even decades

It doesn’t matter that we may not need to , or , want to avail these services at this point of time; Or that other authorities may rule that we can do so

What matters is that we are reminded that we cannot make that decision. That the powers that be can make that decision for us.

What matters is that it takes just this much ..To change evertything; and think about our feelings and sentiments for the city for which our hearts beat. They say home is where the heart is. Doesn’t seem like that anymore.

Actually, I am not sure where my heart is; or anyone else’s , for that matter

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