The Burden of Being Called “Doc”
“Good morning, Doc!” someone greeted me with a flash of smile as I entered the Rural Health Unit. She was one of the health workers assigned in the registration area and thus will always be the first one to see, or greet anyone who comes in.
“Good morning da isab, maam,” I replied with an equally warm smile that she gave me, “Misan ‘Sir’ na hadja ba maam, bukun pa isab aku duktur.” I explained that she can just call me ‘sir’, I am not a doctor yet after all. And I am not really used to being called a “Doc” (yet) by so many people, especially those senior than me in the health service.
“Ayaw doc, di’ manjari! Mabiyaksa ra san kaw.” She remarked with a simple yet decisive tone. And that’s how the discussion ended: “Nope. It just can’t happen. You have to get used to it anyway.” And since then, almost everyone in the health center would address me as “Doc”. The younger “Doc”.
Whenever I meet my patients, I would always introduce myself as a medical student, a “not-yet Doctor”, to keep us in the same level of understanding: That I may not be able to be someone what they were looking for but I will do everything to the best of my knowledge and skills to see what I can do for them. But I could already see in their eyes that somebody already told them something else: “Look! We have a doctor on duty! And yes, believe it or not, he’s that thin guy with a ‘goatee’ over there!”
I know they intend nothing but good by doing it—because there was simply no other person in the building to be called “doc”. I know, I am supposed to get used to it after almost four years in Med school, but every now and then, whenever they address me as such, I would find myself responding with a pretty awkward and troubled mind.
Why wouldn’t I? I myself know for a fact that I really do not look like a doctor at first glance! Had a couple of incidents where our patients—and even fellow health workers—mistook me as another patient! Haha! (Mental note: I should ‘wear’ my stethoscope once and a while). And it is a fact as well that there is still so many things that I know so little about in the big, big world of Medicine! Yes, you got it right. I am not that confident (yet) to call myself a real doctor! I feel that I still have a lot of things to learn, a lot of pages to read and understand, a lot of sleepless hours to spend before I could call myself a real “Doctor”. And I know, I am still far from seeing that happen. And the weight of responsibility of being called “Doc” is something I see as a gargantuan piece of duty that must be carried with great preparation and compassion.
The responsibility of being called a “Doctor” is really not a joke. After years in medschool, even during rounds with our consultants or even in our own patient encounters, I have seen how amazing and yet equally scary that responsibility is. People would believe what you say more than they would believe themselves. They would put their trusts on so many things to you. They share their deepest secrets to you. They would allow you to know things they never even shared to their loved ones. They would even put their lives in your hands, believing with all faith that you will be able to help them somehow, save them from the agony and malady of their illnesses. Scary indeed!
To me this is not something to really brag about. Being called “Doc” does not always mean that that person is recognizing your worth as someone smarter or better than him. Rather, it is more of a reminder that you have the greater responsibility to know what your patients do not. That’s why they come to you in the first place, to seek “consult”. Thus, you have to study hard and learn a lot, so as not to fail them. Being called “Doc” doesn’t mean you already have the right to treat other people lightly, and see them as lowly. It is rather a reminder for you to humble yourself that they are putting their trusts on you, that they are giving you the chance to serve them.
Thus, you have to train harder and be a better physician each day. Being called “Doc” does not mean everyone is under your command and they should just follow all your orders and demands. It is not that they—your patients, your nurses, your fellow health workers—are nothing without you. Rather, it is a reminder for you that you are there not as a dictator to dictate what you want them all to do. You are there as a leader, a guide, a companion for them. That you will be nothing without them as well.
I know I am still far from being qualified to be called a real “doc” and I am still terrified by the weight of responsibility it brings. I know I still have a long, long way to go before I could confidently call myself a “Doc” one day without hesitations and get used to it. But I am honestly hopeful for that day to come. I know it will come, in God’s great plan, in sha Allah. But for now one thing is for sure… I must do better than myself each day that pass by for me to be there. And that, I will strive to do, in sha Allah!
Ah, there is this one exception by the way. A single statement with the word “Doc” in it that instead of giving me an uneasy feeling, it would radiate a warm, wonderful sensation whenever I hear it from patients I meet. A feeling of happiness and fulfilment amid my very pessimistic mind. A feeling of acceptance of my humble, imperfect services to them. And that is:
“Magsukul tuud Doc!” Thank you, doc!
I will be looking forward to becoming that doctor that my patients really deserve.
Yes. I will do my better “best”. For them. In sha Allah! (God willing)
Ahmad ibn Hajiri
Ahmad is a proud Tausug coming from Sulu. He is now a Clinical Clerk (4th year) in UP College of Medicine. Every summer break, he would go back to his dear homeland and serve in different health centers in Siasi, Pandami and Jolo, Sulu as part of his commitment to serve back. He loves coffee. He blogs at www.ahmadhajiri.blogspot.com
PS. This was supposed to be a “less than 500 words” post, but I ended up making it 1000+ words again *face-palm* I really need to cut my posts short! I don’t know, I just can’t help myself. My fingers just keep on typing the words in my head. And I am too lazy to edit and proof-read as well. Badumm tss! Let’s just leave it at that.
And oh! A wonderful EID MUBARAK to all Muslim Families around the world! May Allah Accept all our efforts and sacrifices this Ramadhan. And may He allow us to reach the next Ramadhan as well, Ameen.