By Raj Mohan, MS, DNB, Mch
‘‘Can I have your visiting card, Doctor?” asked my patient’s relative. I knew one of the reasons he asked for my card was to look at my degrees/portfolio and to assess my “brilliance” as a surgeon. How I wished I could tell him that more degrees and an impressive CV do not mean that I do better surgeries.
Here comes the question I have always asked myself: If given an option to choose between brilliance and compassion, what would I choose? When we begin our careers, most of us are in awe of doctors with a great CV and objective achievements or awards, and we hope to emulate them at some point of time. However, many of the best surgeons I have seen during my own short career as a surgeon have been doctors with limited academic achievements, but who are excellent human beings when it comes to providing compassionate, genuine, heartfelt care to their patients.
Chasing what you think is more vital matters, because I think it can ultimately shape your approach to patient care, and hence your choice affects the lives of people who trust you to take care of them.
If you could combine both, that is ideal. But a suffering soul is asking not for a brilliant technician to attend to his needs, but a compassionate caring fellow being who understands him and the situation that his family is going through. The patient is not always asking for a talk on current level I evidence or literature on the disease, but relief from his suffering in the most humane way possible, with a trust that his treating doctor has his best interests in mind. Of course compassion without up-to-date scientific knowledge cannot yield results, but then a medical professional who is genuinely concerned about good patient care will stay abreast of the latest discoveries and the current standard of care in their field.
I strongly feel the need of the hour is to remember the old quote: “Cure may happen sometimes, suffering alleviated frequently, but remain compassionate always.” Probably nowhere else is this more applicable than in the care of patients with cancer.
Dr. Mohan is a surgical oncologist with the Indian Air Force in Bangalore, India. He is a 2017 recipient of ASCO and Conquer Cancer’s International Development and Education Award.