“One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”
– Frances W Peabody, The Care of the Patient, 1927.
Why do we become doctors?
Perhaps it is the blessing of human kindness, the moments of compassion we have experienced in our lives, or the insatiable medical curiosity which make us eager to repay the world in the white coat of an exemplary doctor. Through gifts of touch, tongue and healing, we make an incredibly profound difference in the lives of our patients, may it be through management of vision or good counsel.
We question whether we hold all of the virtues necessary to be deemed an incredible doctor as we go through our rigorous educational training. We pose the question to ourselves in moments of moral dilemma or patient mistrust, in the depths of uncertainty or in the emotional highs and lows of meaningful patient interactions. What makes a good doctor? And how can I, as a student, begin the moral, emotional and mental journey into becoming one?
A dynamic personality
We must be relieved in the understanding that a good doctor has all the merits of an excellent student. A good doctor is one who is passionate, diligent, optimistic, curious, honest, kind, moral, reflective and knowledgeable – all at the same time. How is it possible for so many virtues to exist within a single human being? Difficult as it may be to find, fortunately, in the optometric profession, such combinations are in abundance.
Ardent students roam the halls here, following their hearts to various forms of art, literature, politics, and philosophy – growing their gifts. A good doctor is a life-long learner, remarkable in his or her traits of curiosity and vigor for intellectual debate. A good doctor is created exclusively on the foundation of a brilliant learner in many ways.
love, understanding, and communication
However, where a good doctor transcends the boundaries of an exemplary student is in his or her incredible capacity for benevolence, compassion, and love of humanity. A caring optometrist, in particular, is poignantly touched by the patient’s life, as well as his or her illness. The optometrist need not be an anthropologist to be sensitive to different cultures nor a psychiatrist to recognize the emotional status of the patient. They need not be a social worker to spot child abuse nor a marriage counselor to understand a failing relationship.
For this, a good doctor needs only to be observant and sensitive to the patient, gathering the full array of emotional, medical, social and spiritual tools to aid in the patient’s healing, as illness always tends to be a multifaceted entity. A compassionate optometrist then, must be someone who inspires in his or her patients a total confidence and optimism which is the best beginning for the holistic treatment of any illness or distress.
As exemplary students, we must strive to also progress in our journey to become exemplary optometrists. We may do ordinary things, but we can do them with an extraordinary love, attention and compassion for our patients, who become vulnerable the moment they entrust their vision into our hands. It is with this love of humanity that we develop within us the bubbling desire to go above and beyond in providing care to our patients, in counselling them, in supporting them, and most importantly, in instilling in them the hope and confidence that only a good doctor can provide.