I remember, months before I vowed my Physician’s Oath, around August 2011, I had a random discussion with one of my colleague. A young man whom I went to medical school with. He was one of the extra ordinary person I have ever met. The definition of idiom “silence is gold” fits him. He does not talk a lot. It is rare, to encounter someone as gifted and multi-talented yet also humble as him. His medical intelligence is above average, I can guarantee by the answer he gave to our clinical supervisor back when we were in Internal Medicine clerkship. One time, he, effortlessly, explained about the mechanism of acute renal failure bedside while we were on rounds. He easily made the rest of his peer looked like they were, well, lame. Including me. We talked sometimes, and I found out his right side of brain works tremendously as fine as his left. He plays classical piano sonatas, his drawings, portraits of people in sketches, illustrations in black and white are amazing and also, he could do one of MJ’s fancy legacy, moon-walking. Bottom-line is, he has everything in a package. But it was that one random discussion that I kept in mind which pretty much influenced me along my medical odyssey.
With that kind of medical intelligence and skill, in this profession as a doctor, handling sick and health, life and death, he could easily be someone arrogant, conceited and prideful. But he did not. And he still does not.
Allow me, to share it here, the dialogue we had.
“I really don’t know what to answer to that patient’s question about those weird things. I mean, seriously, what would I say to someone who wonder if he will be cured by pouring special mixed herbal potion all over his body. How should I know, I did not found it on the textbook.”
“You just haven’t found it yet..”
“Well, it’s not there.”
“They probably haven’t write it down. Or they haven’t clinically prove it.”
“So you think there will be explanations about these things?”
He smirked a little and he answered me in a soothing polite tone. “See, the thing is, not many of us doctors honor medicine as natural as it is supposed to be. Medicine is not just about what we read on textbooks. What was written there was the knowledge known and had proven clinically. Yet there are still a lot of things about human health that we haven’t figure out. What we had learned, is merely a drop of light in the dark. And in that darkness, lies mysteries of human health that are waiting to be solved. A terra nova. This is what we should do. Like astronomers finding out new planets and galaxies by expanding their curiosity through the unknown. “
He got me silenced. Hole in one.
He explained more, still in soothing humble tone. “It’s about how you react to it. You could put the period on your answer upon your patient’s question. Or you could put the question mark on your mind that hopefully will inspire you to take one more step into the unknown and expanding your light. And to be even more honest to yourself, that us, doctors, may not know everything. Remember, a terra nova.”
And he smiled again.
Terra Nova means “new life” or “new beginning” or “new land”, in the sense of previously undiscovered places. It was what explorers like Captain Columbus and Captain Cook set sail to discover.
This piece of writing is dedicated to him. For that brief thirty minutes of time which had kindled fire in my heart and in my mind. Which I carried along my journey. Which I will remember and I will share in every possible way. The honesty of not knowing everything and the willingness to discover the undiscovered.
Now, haven’t I told you, that he is a gold? 😉
– i –
PS : Wherever you are now, I know you shine as bright as your mind. Thank you dr.YW.