“teaching with dato’ in the morning, huh?”
the on-call houseman in the male surgical ward smirked at our sour faces as we struggled to read and summarise the clinical histories of the patients assigned to us. it was 9pm and we had 5 patients each. it was a monumental task for a 3rd year medical student faced with the possibility of being the subject of ridicule during rounds with the dean of clinical medicine the next morning.
we were back by 530am the next day, our bloodshot eyes trying to absorb as much extra information as possible before he walked into the ward at 7am sharp. his presence was unmistakable. the air cooled a couple of degrees as he made his entrance. everyone stiffened at the sight of his thin, pursed lips on his unamused face.
we waited for him to choose. we prayed, oh dear Lord did we pray, that he would skip our patients. we continued praying even after he made his choice – we prayed a quick death for our unfortunate comrade who had to present that day. we prayed a prayer of thanks for his/her sacrifice.
those were frightening times. i’ve yet to meet another consultant with the kind of presence he has. the mere mention of his name made us tremble. in fact, he is one of the reasons i chose not to apply for seremban. i couldn’t bear the thought of being made to feel like a medical student again, to face that fear once more, eventhough every one of his rounds left a lasting impression on me and probably helped fuel my interest in surgery later on.
more than his passion for the work, the patients, i was inspired by his work ethic. he did rounds at 7am every morning, without fail. his rationale made sense – theatres start at 8am. an hour-long round is all that should be necessary to make sure things get done. it’s the surgeon’s duty to keep the ward well-run, to make diagnoses and decide on the appropriate mode of treatment. it is his duty to guide his juniors, to teach them. it is his duty to be an example, even if his presence demands more fear than respect.
he taught us to be at work earlier than the stipulated time and expected us to know our patients well. he taught us to see ourselves as minions, yes, but minions whose words have great effect on the patient because our superiors rely on our presentations to make decisions on treatment. he taught us that to admit we don’t know and face the wrath of our bosses is better than fabricating information just to cover our asses. that it’s alright to have our hearts ripped out of our chests with sarcasm, shredded to pieces and left to bleed as long as we don’t do something that could harm our clients.
2 years on, i am still greeted by “dokter knape awel sgt nie?” every morning. i get jitters on the day of an elective theatre because i have to be there before my MOs, before my surgeons. i have to be prepared to answer whatever questions they have about the patients. it’s my job as a minion to do so.
actually no. it’s my job as a doctor to do so.
i thank God for dato’ and the absolutely blood-draining rounds we did with him as students. i am thankful for the fear he put in our hearts and the discipline that followed. he is a man who is proud of his profession and who does the profession proud. i’m thankful for his work ethic and the example he has set for us.
if only everyone had the pleasure of working or studying with him. we’d be much better doctors and people.