Posted by on August 18, 2015 | 0 comments

Why Ignorance is Bliss

My 9-year-old daughter is convinced she knows everything. Trying to help her with homework is a real test of my patience as she either argues with me or disregards what I have to say because “I’m right, mommy!” Part of the reason I find the homework experience so frustrating is that it reminds me of myself at her age. I was also stubborn and opinionated, and I was convinced that I either knew everything or I could figure it all out. Woe betide anyone who tried to tell me otherwise! It’s only in recent years – after I’ve accumulated degrees, certificates and awards – that I realise how little I know. It seems as if for each new fact I learn there are ten questions that arise from it. Even concepts that I was certain of – such as much of what I was taught at medical school – have been turned on their heads. Don’t get me wrong – I relish the fact that I know so little....

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Posted by on August 13, 2015 | 0 comments

Letter to Junior Doctors #8: The Wounded Healer

It is impossible to go through the early years of practicing as a doctor unscathed. Patients die, adverse reactions occur, brain fog obscures obvious diagnoses. Everyone’s been through it. When I first realised that so many doctors had been through this harrowing journey I was discouraged. What did it say about our capacity to heal when we are also wounded and in pain? Of what use can we be to our patients when we have so much healing to do on ourselves? In fact, I think this brokenness is exactly the key to us being better able to do our jobs. Let me explain. The psychologist Carl Jung was the first to describe the concept of the “wounded healer”. The idea derives from Greek mythology – from the story of Chiron, the centaur who was wounded by an arrow from Heracles’ bow. He did not die but suffered excruciating pain for the rest of his eternal days. Chiron went on to become a renowned healer and teacher of the...

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Posted by on August 12, 2015 | 0 comments

When Is It Men’s Day?

As the country celebrated Women’s Day this past weekend, my daughters innocently asked me: “Mom, when is it Men’s Day?” I chuckled to myself. These lovely beings – aged 9 and 4 years old – were asking what must have occurred to them as a perfectly logical question. As a parent I am hesitant to shatter their innocence by telling them about the injustices in the world. I would like them to believe – for as long as possible – that life is fair, that we all have equal opportunity, and that all distinctions between people are purely superficial and ultimately meaningless. The truth is, of course, that all our differences are entirely meaningless. However, we live in a world where we have created meaning based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, geography, etc. We have constructed systems which entrench these apparent differences and result in certain groups being more privileged than others. It is for this reason that days like Women’s Day exist – to highlight gender inequality...

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Posted by on August 4, 2015 | 0 comments

Letter to Junior Doctors #7: The Upside of Quitting

When I was in my final year at medical school one of my professors said at our valedictory ceremony that only 75% of us would still be practicing medicine in 10 years time. I thought he was crazy. What on earth would the other 25% be doing? Why go through all that training and then not use it? Little did I know at the time that I would be among that minority. Medical school is a long and tough journey. Certainly where I studied the academic year started at least a month before the rest of the university, and we would always finish later. What’s more, during the year we seemed to always be on the go, from one clinical rotation to the next. Of course for many people this was all part of the investment. “One day it will be worth it,” we told ourselves. We put our heads down and worked hard, knowing we would be rewarded in the end with the career we had always dreamed...

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