Sunday, March 01, 2009

the head bone & the heart bone

lynnxuan's post got me thinking again about why i applied to do medicine in the 1st place.

this is that time of the year, after the SPM/STPM/matriculation exams, when career paths take shape. some students are focussed enough to know what they want to do, while for others, their ambitions are molded by well-meaning parents.

it really doesn't matter what the reasons are for doing medicine. it's noble to desire to want to heal & relieve suffering, yet it's not a crime to want to make lots of money.

many years ago, a dear friend gave me a cutting from a magazine, Newsweek i think, about a speech directed at a graduating medical class. the speaker was Alan Alda, most famously revered for his role as US army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in the long-running TV series M*A*S*H.
he highlighted several pertinent points:

You're entering a special place in our society. People will be awed by your expertise. You'll be placed in a position of privilege. You'll live well, people will defer to you. call you by your title - and it may be hard to remember that the word "doctor" is not actually your first name.Where does money come on your list? Will it be the sole standard against which you reckon your success? How much will it guide you in relating to your patients? Do patients in a clinic need less of your attention than private patients?

Where will your
family come on your list? How many days and nights, weeks and months, will you separate yourself from them, buried in your work, before you realize that you've removed yourself from an important part of your life?

I congratulate you, and please let me thank you for taking on the enormous responsibility that you have — and for having the strength to have made it to this day. I don't know how you've managed to learn it all. But there is one more thing you can learn about the body that only a non-doctor would tell you — and I hope you'll always remember this:

The head bone is connected to the heart bone - and don't let them come apart.

here is the full text of a most inspiring message every prospective & new medical graduate should read, deliberate upon & keep in mind, as they embark on their brave journey.

bon voyage, doctors!


Anonymous said...

It is not what you do that is important...but how you do it - with love!

Anonymous said...

A doctor is a very noble profession indeed ... (:

Of course it isn't a crime to have dreams of making lots of money but when the nobility of healing patients are being cast aside due to greed, that's not really right anymore. It's hard to find a doctor w/a big heart these days - 'cept for those whom really care about the patients and it's all about their health and well-being that matters.

I'm sure you're a noble doctor, Doc.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I feel so honoured being mentioned on your blog, Doc.

doc said...


how true! often, we become too mechanical & detached in our dealings with our patients that we fail to see the human side of suffering.

we can always do better!

doc said...


thanks for your generous compliment but i think you have to be my patient to know if i have that attribute!!


doc said...


ha ha, sometimes i hitch on another blog when there's something interesting to share. i should thank you for your post.