Posts Tagged ‘medical specialties’


Rarely do I particularly write about the people I deal with on a daily basis because I have found a long time ago that it tends to get one in a lot of trouble if one is found out.  However, I am going to make a rare exception simply because I find it so fascinating that she is the only person I know so far who has ever had the cojones to admit to wanting to pursue a career in, wait for it, Geriatrics.

Geriatrics… the very word itself sounds so unappetizing that one could just wonder why she had ever considered it as a specialty.  Pediatrics is unappetizing to me as well but, in itself, it already is hardcore simply because kids as patients are so damn difficult to deal with.  It takes a certain amount of talent and skill to engage kids and make them cooperate.  Internal medicine is hardcore as well because it takes a bad ass to have complete confidence in one’s self to be able to diagnose something without directly seeing it, which sounds frustrating to me.  Surgery is the most hardcore of them all because one gets to open up another human being and directly see what one is doing with one’s hands – lesser probability of screwing up that way.

Geriatrics, on the other hand, sounds so staid, boring and, I have to admit, a little bit depressing.  One classmate actually verbalized it in a way I probably could never have:  “Geriatrics is the safest specialty ever.  If your patient dies, nobody’d care anyway.” Witty, so witty.  People did laugh out loud but, after much philosophizing over the matter (because I have so much time in my hands, you know), I have realized that it had got to be one of the more insensitive things we could ever say about the people who’ve seen more than we’ve ever had, who’ve lived through pain more than we’ve ever had, and who’d survived through all of it and have the scars to prove it.

In one lecture on Geriatrics, it was mentioned that a person reaches the point of being completely comfortable with himself when he is already at his fifth or sixth decade of life.  That actually surprised me and brought me down a bit.  See, the day I hit my twenties, I had sent a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, rejoicing that my awkward pre-twenties phase was finally ending.  Now, although I believe myself to be quite happy and content with the person that I have become, I realize that I am so far from that point where the old and the wise now stand.  When you’re in your twenties, you haven’t exactly lived yet and, in a way, it’s another phase of life you just have to understand yet again.  While those who are already in their fifties and sixties?  Those are people who’ve already lived and seen it all.  Those are people who are comfortable in their own skin because they’ve been through so much already as themselves.  How could one not respect experience?

Now, this girl who wanted Geriatrics as a specialty?  She wanted it because she grew up with old people around the house.  She wanted to learn how to take care of them specifically.  Although I’m sure there are more and deeper reasons behind this desire of hers, this simply reinforced what I have long ago believed to be the truth.  A medical doctor’s specialization says a lot about that doctor – what matters to him, what drives him, and what he was brought up with.  One cannot simply go into something and live with it happily without a motivation driving the need and the desire, be it money or something else.

Geriatrics is a noble medical specialty.  To have the desire to take care of those who’d painstakingly paved the way for us to become who we are now is just plain amazing.  Why do old people matter?  Because we’re all going to become them someday.

Teamwork logo

My batchmates have always complained that the school administration makes our lives difficult by assigning us to different groups with different people for the many SGDs, preceptorials and other group works that define our medschool life.  One of the teachers told us that there was a reason why admin opted to try this constant reassigning of groups but the reason was never really made clear.  However (because I am a philosophical medstudent and all that), I have figured out the reason.

Doctors work in teams to ensure that a patient is given maximal care.  You don’t always get to choose who you work with.  That’s the point.  Assigning us to different groups for different tasks allows us to develop the necessary skills to deal with other people in a teamwork setting, especially with people we find most difficult to work with.  After all, what is the challenge in working with people you’re already comfortable with?  Constantly assigning us to different groups with different sets of people teaches us how to be professional, ergo thick-skinned, results-driven machines.  Just kidding.

Perhaps it is all about developing the kind of work ethics that we could someday be proud of.  In all honesty, I find working in groups, even partnerships, somewhat stressful but there is one principle that I follow when teamwork is necessary:  always give credit where credit is due but don’t overdo it.  You do your work well and, if you have leftover time, do more/help your teammates out but you don’t just hog all the credit to yourself.  It is, after all, group work.  Contribute to the formation of your teammates by making them do some work that they can be proud of as well.  However, if you are not able to do your work well because of some uncontrollable turn of events, apologize profusely and try to make up for it the next time and do not let your preceptor or your senior think that you’d done work that you hadn’t.  Give yourself enough credit – the operative words being just enough… not too much, not too little.  Just for the sake of fairness and balance.

There are people who I truly admire in my batch, not just for being exceptional leaders, but for being excellent team players.  The thought of working with them excites me because you learn so much from them – how to lead without using a condescending/offending/dominating tone of voice, how to include people without compromising the results, how to allow teammates to recognize their potential without truly pushing, how they praise their teammates for a job well done while themselves trying to keep a low profile.  It is amazing just observing how they go about it.  They’re very inspirational.  They make you want to better yourself.  Tear.

In my opinion, some doctors and even some soon-to-be doctors have this arrogance – a sense of entitlement – that makes it so difficult for them to sometimes see from the viewpoint of the other.  We are not perfect.  We make a lot of mistakes but, if these mistakes were made in a teamwork setting, you, my friend, have got to brace yourself.  Sooner or later, you’d find out you’d been called incompetent bitch or bastardous slacker at least once in your medschool life.  Just kidding, medstudents are not (that) mean.

So, how do you deal with fellow (pseudo-) doctors?  Haha.  I have no freaking idea, man.  I’m still trying to figure it out myself.  Considering the many mistakes I make in a teamwork setting, I’m just really trying to stay out of the rumor mill.  This ain’t professional school, boo.  This is high school with scalpels right here.  Fun.  

Wolverine, a.k.a. Weapon X (Weapon Ten)

One thing that I’ve always wished we could do as human beings is to regenerate body parts.  Very Wolverine-ish, probably the coolest superpower ever.

A few days ago, I went to this bloodletting event because I was hoping to finally be cleared for blood donation.  Miracles of miracles, I was cleared for donation after years of being deferred due to anemia.  I was so happy because it had always been my dream to donate blood.  I ended up having both arms inserted with gauge 19 needles.  My right arm had thin unstable veins and my left arm had too thin veins that refused to let the blood flow out into the tubing.  I got inserted with gauge 19 needles in both arms… for nothing.

Blood donation and organ donation have always held a special place in my heart because the impact these have on the quality of life of patients who need them is truly significant.  A couple of years ago, I had to contact people I had not talked to in years just to ask for blood because I couldn’t donate to my own mother.  Frustrating.  Same goes with organ donation.  Around five years ago, I had wanted to donate a kidney and couldn’t.

Perhaps one would say that, “Nah, it’s just the Messianic complex working.” Heck, no.  I mean, I’m so selfish that I would donate blood to strangers but not my organs while I am still alive.  Selfish but practical.  We don’t need excess blood.  We make more every twenty-one days and, as long as the ABO antibodies match, you’re good to go, no chance of rejection.  But, with organs, it’s a different story.  I would rather give my organs to someone who would have a significantly lower risk of rejecting them.  I don’t believe in wasting non-regeneratable body parts.  Yes, you regenerate a liver lobe but a kidney?  Come on.

My only argument is this:  donating blood or an organ saves a life.  You don’t need to go to medschool or nursing school just to learn how to do it.  I mean, you already have it in you and, I mean, literally.

I know that last part sounded preachy, bear with now, boo.  Wouldn’t it be nice though if humans could regenerate limbs like starfishes can?  Wolverine can and, for me, he’s like the ultimate human being — regeneratable and totally capable of donating.  He’s the coolest.  If ever I get to meet him, I’d probably bite off a chunk of his skin just to see if a skin patch would grow right back.  That would probably be the best experiment I would ever undertake in my entire scientific career.

There are people who suck at teaching and I happen to be one of them.  Thus, my college degree in Biology, which usually leads its disciples over to the academe, is useless , making it especially hard to pursue any other career path except medicine.  Thus, ever since college and just like any other medical student, I have been constantly going over and over in my brain on what medical specialty I should pursue – the specialty that will get me hooked, lined and sinkered.  I realize that the specialty a medical student chooses says a lot about who he/she is, what he/she can put up with and what he/she feels strongly about.  Hence, the idea of choosing the wrong specialty makes me want to barf… violently, as if I have the worst kind of flu virus nature ever had the vindictiveness to, uh, evolve.

Choosing and eventually deciding on something involve a lot of factors, namely what you like, what you want, what you are good at and what you need to do.  But you know what’s unfortunate?  When you have one specialty for each of those factors.  Makes life all the more interesting, doesn’t it.

  • LIKE: Neonatology.  I am of the belief that most people in the medical field have a Messianic complex – the need to take care of individuals they consider weaker than themselves.  Babies, for me, are the ultimate weak individuals (either that or my biological clock is ticking, augh).  When I am in the hospital, I would stand outside the NICU for hours just staring at babies through the viewing glass.  It makes me happy, watching them sleep or try to turn from side to side or make goo-goo noises in their cribs.  But, when I turn around, the nurses at the station would be eyeing me, probably thinking who the crazy girl was and what she’s meaning to do with the babies she’d been looking at for the past hour or so.  This specialty shows exactly how soft a person can be.
  • WANT: Nephrology and Transplant Surgery.  I grew up watching a disease related to this specialty manifest itself in its worst possible form in a loved one.  Chronic renal obstruction secondary to staghorn calculi, bilateral.  It is a very debilitating disease – physically, emotionally and financially.  Perhaps there is this want to “fix” the person that means a lot to you as well as every other person who reminds you of her.  Nephrology is the specialty I am truly most familiar with.  However, some people learn through theory but, there are some, like me, who learn through experience and hand motion.  Of all the specialties I’ve ever considered, surgery, coupled with nephrology, are what I truly want.  This specialty shows exactly how selfish a person can be.
  • GOOD AT: Psychiatry.  Paralysis by analysis for the win!  This specialty requires you to be more of a listener and an elicit-er instead of an authoritative doctor barking out orders to your patient and to exhausted nurses.  Why Psych?  I feel that I can be good at this specialty because I like knowing where people are coming from.  I like figuring out what is wrong with a person.  However, a friend once told me that I’m not really that great a listener because I tend to interrupt a talker to give one (probably unwarranted) advice or another.  Notice the kind of supportive friends I run around with.  Plus, I doubt I would want to hang out with mentally disturbed people on a daily basis.  I’m already mentally disturbed enough as it is.  This specialty shows exactly how arrogant a person can be.
  • NEED TO DO: Community and Public Health.  Remember what I said about Messianic complex?  Studying medicine is a privilege.  Thus, because we have the knowledge and the skills, we cannot just use it solely for our own financial benefit, although of course earning should still be a primary consideration in our careers.  Still, we must allow a large majority to have access to the services that we are more than capable to provide.  Community and Public Health is an advocacy and a commitment… and pursuing this as a specialty, well, kind of  scares me (to death).  I’m still thinking about it.  This specialty shows exactly how cowardly a person can be.

Some people say that medical students should wait until Clerkship Year before truly deciding on a specialty because rotating in the clinics and being immersed in different medical situations will allow you to truly weigh your options.  However, there are many others who say, no BELLOW, that we should be choosing a specialty now so that we can focus our energies on building up our knowledge and skills especially for that specialty.

What they don’t get or probably don’t remember is that deciding on a specialty is like deciding on marriage.  Heller, you’re going to have to wake up to that specialty for the rest of your life!  Does that not sound like marriage to you?  Does that not sound scary to you?  Don’t push now, dude.  Let us take our time.  We have a year until Clerkship Year.  Oh, jeez, a year sounds so freaking short.