ON BEING A DOCTOR
Doctor (Latin, docere) simply means “to teach.” Throughout their careers, physicians will learn with and teach their fellow physicians, medical students, and patients. The alleviation of suffering by physicians requires a vast skills-set involving the most advanced technical, scientific, and clinical knowledge, as well as the attributes of empathy and compassion for their fellow humans, as set forth by Hippocrates, “the father of western medicine,” in 400 BCE.
The practice of medicine is dependent on the accumulation of an enormous fund of medical knowledge. Advancements in the medical field are achieved primarily through academic and clinical research, as well as anecdotal case histories and reports. In order to acquire and maintain the highest level of current knowledge and expertise, physicians must read and absorb vast quantities of current medical literature, both through attendance at conferences, searching the internet, and consulting with their fellow physicians. This lifelong commitment to learning is essential to becoming the finest physician.
Furthermore, the inquiring physician will vigorously investigate the various mysteries of nature, which have engaged scientists in all ages, in the hope of finding the causes of disease, and developing the means to prevent and cure diseases into the future. Physicians all over the world share these lofty goals.
When taking care of a patient, empathy, understanding, and sympathy are expected of the physician, for the patient is clearly more than the sum of his various symptoms, dysfunctions, and emotions. The ill patient is frightened and vulnerable, and in great need of hope and reassurance from their physician. The strength or weakness of the relationship that is formed between physician and patient will significantly help determine the ultimate outcome of the diagnosis and treatment of the patient’s presenting illness. In other words, the physician’s support of and caring for their patient, when the patient is most vulnerable, is critical to the patient’s sense of well-being throughout their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.