My medical journey began 20 years ago when I stepped in the altar of a medical college and things were never the same after that rainy day in September 1994. I grew up in Gujarat with a sense of pride in everything Tamilian to prove my umbilical links. The agnostic movement led by EVK Periyar was learnt through word of mouth by parents and occasional inputs from newspapers and magazines. My scientific zeal and faith in supremacy of my science teachers furthered this concept. I was a die hard agnostic and prided in the same. I felt everything that happens in the Universe can be logically explained by a physical or chemical or biologically plausible theory.
I entered medical education with the same enthusiasm to unravel the secrets of health hitherto unknown and become a great healer. In the 13 years of my medical education I relentlessly pursued the goal to know everything I could, learn every skill I could master as the rites of passage transformed me from a bubbly medical student to a boorish cardiologist. I had become a healer vested with the powers of Hygeia. I regaled in the joy that the degrees bestowed upon me entitled me to do. I had achieved my parental ambitions and now walked down the hall of glory with head held high and wide broad chest filled with pride.
I started practicing medicine the way I had learnt, following guidelines to the last line, reprimanding patients who did not toe the line. I used to get furious at my colleagues, staff or sometimes patients who questioned the rationale of a particular modality of treatment. I was a true scientific buff, so anything that had been proven by the pontiffs of medicine with the backing of randomized controlled trials was scientific gospel. It was a law that none could appeal against. I believed that once the guideline committee endorsed it there was no backing off and no one would be ever prove it wrong.
Over the years all these have fallen flat on the face. My Trinity has betrayed me. My patients have endorsed my faith in God or the Supernatural umpteen times. Patients whom I predicted would make it would pass away. They will slap my knowledge and wisdom of 13 years on the cheek. The other end those I predicted were doomed to meet God at the next weekend would come and stare at me 2 years down the line with a glint in their eyes. The very notion that what I considered to be the biblical truth could be proven blissfully wrong in 10 years is endorsed by the evolution of Beta blockers.
Drugs which were considered contraindicated for a particular clinical condition makes a rebirth in a different dose and formulation as a drug of choice for the same clinical scenario. Therapies which were unimaginable 10 years ago in concept are now considered prime time options today. It is easy to brush of all these developments as scientific advancement. I find it difficult to tell my patients that what I thought 10 years ago was rubbish. What I think today, I will call stupid idea 10 years down the line. Worst of all 20 years from now, I will again endorse the same line with a different set of fact files. That puts Medicine as a form of Fashion parade rather than a scientific pursuit.
I have started realizing my limited powers as a healer and have started coaxing my patients to be believers. I have started using terms hitherto unused by me, “I hope, I believe, I wish and I shall pray” in my practice. I have even gone to the extent of telling patients that If they believe in me, the same treatment will work wonders for them as opposed to being skeptical about me.
Today I have started listening to patients more than talking to them. I have stopped laughing at their beliefs and making fun of their superstitions. I have become more accommodative of their wishes, desires and modifications to treatment regimens than ever before. I am true believer in the power of One, Almighty or the Supreme Force in the ability to transform the health of my patients over and above my insinuations and treatment.
The transition is complete, an agnostic to healer to believer and the feeling is supreme.