How to be a popular medical practitioner

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 How to be a popular medical practitioner

Prof. Dr. Altaf Hussain Rathore

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Medical practice is an art. It not only requires your knowledge, experience but also a good human relationing. You are dealing with living very sensitive grieving and suffering patients.  Patients come to you with a particular disease aggravated by her/his personal, social and family problems. They have an inner fear of imminent death, family disaster, misery and feeling of insecurity. They see in you the source of relief, comfort, hope and messiah. With your few sympathetic words, encouraging language and soft tone along with some medicines may take away their miseries, fears, apprehensions, pain and sooth their soul. In the following lines, I will give some examples of the successful practitioner including GPs and specialists.


Prof. Dr. Altaf Hussain Rathore

When I was a medical student at Dow medical college Karachi, we had a professor of gynecology and obstetrics by the name Miss Siddique. She was a very kind old looking thin and lean lady, always dressed in sari. She had a skinny face full of wrinkles, on top of which were heavy spectacles. She was very soft spoken and always smiling. In the evening when she used to enter her private clinic which was on the first floor, the clinic used to be heavily crowded and some of the patients on the ground floor of the hall of building and on the stairs, used to stand waiting  on both sides of her way. She had very good memory and used to recognize her old patients very well. On her way to her practicing chamber she used to listen to waiting patients one by one about their illnesses and used to dictate their treatment to her accompanying junior doctors after listening carefully and reassuring her patients, and then she used to climb the next step and talk to her next patient. She never demanded the fee and the people used to push the currency notes in the side pocket of her white coat.

When I joined my first job as consultant surgeon in a missionary hospital, there was an old consultant gynecologist in that hospital, she was an old Irish nun but could speak and understand Punjabi very well. She used to take lot of time with the patients, first asking about their family then their illness, and then examine them thoroughly. After that she would try to explain their disease and say good bye after resting her hand on top of patients head. There were so many other gynecologists in the hospital but every woman in the town wanted to consult this motherly doctor.

After returning from UK, I started my practice in a big town. In the same town there were a few MBBS doctors and one or two specialists. The most successful GP was of my age belonging to a very poor and illiterate family background. His personality was also not very impressive. But he had one quality, that he was very humble and soft spoken. He used to talk to the patient in their own language, examine and try to explain the patient the nature of his disease in the common local terminology. He will address each patient with a great respect i.e. beti, munni, kakki, or kaka, baji, bibi, baba ji, chaudry saab, malik saab, sheikh saab, mian ji, etc. There was always a rush of patients at his clinic. With his practice he built his own beautiful hospital.

Prof. Z was appointed at QMC as consultant surgeon along with others. At that time the consultants were supposed to practice in the evening at their residence in college campus, which were built side by side in a row. Each residence had a grassy lawn in front where the waiting private patients used to sit in the evening. He was a very  kind and intelligent doctor. During his morning round of his ward in hospital, he used to encourage his general ward patients to visit his house in the evening if they were worried about their illness and were assured that no fee will be charged. Even they were served with a cup of tea or a glass of water at his clinic. Naturally his lawn used to be crowded with people. It made the other neighboring consultants jealous after seeing such a great number of patients waiting in the lawn. By this courtesy not only his patients were increasing in number but some undecided patients walking in the colony were also attracted toward this crowd.

Dr. Shafi used to practice in Kutchary bazar Lyallpur;(now known as Faisaabad) he was one of the leading medical practitioner of town. He always used to keep a big container full kachi lassi (diluted salted milk) at his clinic. And every patient was offered this lassi. During his practice he used to always give some medical samples also to his patients. Naturally you could imagine the cause of his popularity.

Dr. S was the junior, youngest gynecologist out of three at our hospital where I was M.S. She had a diploma in gynecology as compared to the others who had fellowship. Still she had the maximum patients in her gynae out door, perhaps double than the others. Why? She was a very soft spoken and sympathetic to her patients and used to give lot of time to them. Any patient could stop her in the corridor for their problem. During her round or in the outdoor if any grieved patient or her relative started crying she would sometime also start weeping with them. She used to keep the sweets in her pocket and used to give them to accompanying children.

Now I will like to give you the examples of some failures as well. A senior professor was sitting to conduct his surgical outdoor at Jinnah hospital. He was surrounded by the patients, medical students and doctors. A tall young final year medical student brought her mother to show to professor, she had breast cancer. The worthy professor checked her properly and then sat down in his chair. After few moments he said abruptly with his usual high tone to that young medical student,” why have you brought her in such an advance stage when she is dying? Couldn’t you bring her early?” (Perhaps this was his way of consolation), these words made her perplexed and angry because she did not expect this from her professor, perhaps she was expecting some pacifying soothing and encouraging words. Her face became red and she busted open to the professor “how you dare to tell me that my mother is dying. I will pull your tongue out of your mouth” then she started crying. Such a disgrace in front of so many people, the professor immediately got up and left the outdoor for his house.

Never deceive your patients and do not commit quackery. Again when I came from abroad and settled in a big town there was an orthopedic surgeon with so many degrees. He opened his hospital where he used to see almost every specialty cases. Whatever the case presented to him, whether orthopedic, medical or general surgery, he used to diagnose it as liver ailment for which he used to prescribe the anti-tuberculosis drugs to be purchased from his hospital store. Seeing his qualifications people from far flag areas even from tribal areas used to come to his hospital and even used to get better- perhaps tuberculosis was more common in their area. Gradually his practice flopped and now his hospital is deserted and looks like a Bhoot Bangla.

In a nut shell, for a successful private practice besides your qualifications and experience, you need an excellent human relationing which is usually not taught in a medical college.

Tailpiece: Always keep to your own specialty and do the ethical practice.