If Not a Doctor, Then What?

One of the questions I was asked recently in an interview was something along the lines of could I say something about myself that few people know about.

The answer came to me fairly quickly.

After my military service, I applied to medical school. I had decided I wanted to go to Uppsala University. The Karolinska Institute was more famous, not the least because they pick the Nobel Prize winners in Medicine. But Uppsala is the second oldest university in the world, and the history behind it impressed me as the most classical medical education I could get.

In what now seems like a reckless thing to do, I only applied to Uppsala. It never occurred to me until after the deadline that it might have been wise to make a second and maybe even a third choice.

That fall semester I worked as a substitute teacher in my home town. I found myself one week in front of a room full of wide eyed second graders and the next facing one with bored and sullen fourteen year olds.

During those months I knew what I could do if Uppsala wouldn’t have me: I might become a teacher. I loved explaining things plainly and simply. I enjoyed presenting the hard to engage teenagers with an opening hook to gain their interest, or at least some degree of curiosity.

Today, again and again, day in and day out, I explain, challenge and engage patients in similar ways. As I often find myself pointing out, the word doctor is derived from “docere”, to teach.

So I got both jobs – a doctor, educated at the school of my choice, and a teacher for all ages, having to adapt my style and approach for a wide variety of patients, toddlers to centenarians.

It’s all the same, in a way. And I love it.

5 Responses to “If Not a Doctor, Then What?”

  1. 1 Mike Balfe September 8, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    “I found myself one week in front of a room full of wide eyed second graders and the next facing one with bored and sultry fourteen year olds.”
    Above is copy and paste from your original post, but noted that before I could comment, you had changed “sultry” to “sullen.”
    I guess Lolita transferred out of the class.

  2. 3 meyati September 8, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    i bet that your students loved you, you seem to have the exact amount of interesting words, and you don’t go on and on.

  3. 4 Faudes Lugo September 8, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    I love reading your blog and i agree on going for classical teaching. I was impressed by your last post about the lens inflammation and hearing loss.

  4. 5 Mary Symmes September 8, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Another meaning for docere is to lead out – to lead out of ignorance, and to lead out of illness. Both occupations involve establishing a relationship with a person and then giving them information, and in the case of the doctor, tangible medicine. Like using a tuning fork to test deafness, neither job need involve complicated information.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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