back to basics

my 84-year-old grandma gave me a hair cut last night. she did it quickly, her graceful fingers working the pair of plain scissors with the kind of skill that can only be earned through years of experience. she had the barest minimum of tools and yet she managed to release me from the monster that is my shock of wavy black hair in less than 30 minutes.

yesterday, an article in the star caught my eye. it was about how the practice of medicine has changed with the advancement of technology. it’s a familiar rant, one i heard almost every day as a medical student and is still a common occurrence at work. i’m pretty sure my specialists die a little more inside each time a house officer says he’d diagnose a pneumothorax based on a chest radiograph.

it really is so much easier to order an investigation instead of spend time with a patient, make sense of his complaints and take a moment to examine the relevant systems in order to come to a diagnosis and subsequently chart a plan of management. after all, it’s just taxpayer’s money, and you won’t have to stick a finger up a sweet old lady’s butt or listen to a man’s heart for 5 to 10 minutes in order to figure out which valve is making that unusual heart sound and why.

so much more troublesome than getting a scan or scope done, no?

but as i watched my grandmother snip, trim, thin and style my hair with nothing more than a plain pair of scissors and a flat comb, i felt a sudden sense of shame for not just myself but for every doctor of my generation, spoiled by the variety of investigations available to us. she didn’t need a whole range of brushes or those jagged-edged scissors to whip my hair into shape. she just needed the very basic of skills, probably taught in the first year of any respectable school for hairstylists…and all i need to do is hone to perfection the basic skills of doctoring in order to be alright.

of course all the new stuff is exciting and any doctor would be a fool to not keep up to date with the latest developments in medicine. imaging studies are so good these days that you can get a near-perfect 3D reconstruction of any organ you want. but technology isn’t available everywhere and at the end of the day, what sets a doctor apart from anyone else is his ability to use all 5 of his senses to treat someone who is unwell.

i must remember this always.


One response to “back to basics

  1. Excellent observation…and conclusion.

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