Yesterday, in the class that I’m auditing (I have a pretty amazing attendance rate for classes I’m not actually a part of; I even turn in assignments that I technically don’t have to do! :O ), we watched the 2001 film, Wit. I’m usually not one to go around strongly recommending movies, but this one was an incredibly moving film. It also won a whole slew of awards, so I’m definitely alone in this train of thought.
Wit is based on a play, and is about a professor who is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. What I write about after this may give away bits and pieces of the movie (although given the premise, you can probably deduce at least a couple things), but if you’d like to continue, read on! (That was my spoiler alert.) It’s another long one, because this sparked all kinds of memories and thoughts.
Honestly, I found parts of the movie extremely upsetting, which was augmented by the fact that I can actually see things like this happening in real life. What I really hope is that I don’t ever become so cold and uncaring when I’m a physician someday. I pray to God that I never, ever lose sight of the humanistic attitude that was so utterly lacking and nonexistent in everyone other than the nurse in this movie (bless all the Susie’s out there in the world). Parts of it were not just unsettling to watch–I honestly felt chills from the complete lack of consideration that they showed for their patient.
There were definitely a lot of pieces of the movie that I found appalling in terms of how they treated her, but what struck me the most was the part where Vivian’s heart stopped, and Jason was calling Code Blue despite the fact that she’d chosen the DNR option (although based on what my mom told me, I believe it may now be called AND [Allow Natural Death]).
S: She’s DNR!
J: She’s research!
(I believe that was where I felt chills down my spine.) I was somewhat appeased by the fact that Susie shoved him to the floor, but I honestly wanted to punch him in the face. (Multiple times.)
Wit portrayed a prevalent stereotype for those who are interested more so in research than in treating patients. I avoided research in undergrad for a couple reasons. Most of it had to do with the fact that, due to time constraints, I knew I could only pick one. To me, there is absolutely no competition when it comes down between (1) a clinical internship where I’d get to directly work with and help patients in a medical setting, and (2) doing grunt work for many moons before graduating to working in a lab where I would likely have to work with and eventually kill lab animals. (While I am wildly grateful of all the advances in medicine that these studies have led us to, I want no part in crushing mice skulls or severing their spinal cords. I have no problems with using a bone saw to crack open a rib cage in anatomy, but to actually actively kill a living being for learning purposes? I can’t, or at least, I really don’t want to.)
I have been beyond fortunate in the opportunities I found, and as such, the physicians I’ve met or had the chance to work with are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
My undergraduate anatomy professor has an MD/PhD, teaches undergraduate and med school anatomy, works at the hospital as a pediatrician, travels to Africa every year to provide free medical care to the people there, was part of the medical team that went to Haiti when the earthquake first happened, has 2 (3?) foster children, and still somehow manages to make/have ample time for to spend with his family. My exercise biology professor, who I think I’ve actually managed to not gush about at all in here yet, is very likely one of the most amazing people I will ever know in my lifetime. He is the best professor I have ever had, with a great sense of humor, an incredible memory, and a true gift for teaching. I have all the respect in the world for him, and am under the firm belief that he was sent here to positively influence and inspire each and every one of the thousands of students he has taught. He does research, is a physician, teaches a billion exercise biology classes (I blew up my schedule trying to take them all), ran a cardiac rehabilitation program, and is currently running an Adult Fitness Program.
They are two of the people I admire most, and having the opportunity to take classes with them and to work with extremely dedicated and altruistic physicians at clinic made it frighteningly easy to forget about the other extreme: the physicians who honestly don’t care. The ones who don’t take into account what the patient wants or needs, who don’t bother to take just a couple extra minutes in their day to ask their patient how they’re feeling and to really listen to what they say…the ones who care only about the results and the research.
I guess this is the underlying reason as to why one of the most important factors I looked for in a medical school was whether or not they offered early patient interaction and opportunities to help and work with people within the community. It’s part of why I’d drive over 100 miles every weekend I could to continue volunteering at clinic. Being there reminds me of all the reasons I chose to go into medicine. Here’s to hoping I never lose sight of that.