As that white coat flutters down the corridors of the ward, clinic, or examination room, a feeling of hope emerges. The white coat, a ubiquitous symbol, has become synonymous with all the precepts that a doctor stands for. Trust, hope, and strength are all ideals that doctors strive to personify in their actions with not only patients, but also with their colleagues. By striving to actualize these precepts as a physician, one will lead a career beyond repute and of good intent.
However, there is one ideal that stands supreme above all others. Compassion, the quintessential characteristic of a physician, has been present since the dawn of the Hippocratic Oath. The duty of a doctor to actively care and show concern for the patient is what truly grants a patient the trust that he places in his caregiver. Without compassion, medicine simply would lack the hope that is all too essential in the constant battle against disease.
In recent times it seems that this characteristic has seemingly gone amiss. By recent interactions as well as through reading disturbing stories elsewhere, I have begun to wonder if compassion has left its place in medicine. Stories of cold, uncaring, and fully inconsiderate doctors have become far too common in our modern society. A preoccupation with monetary gain and personal achievement has distorted the ultimate aim of being a doctor: helping people. Why else would an individual go into medicine? Being placed in such a position of honor and trust should not be taken lightly and this is something that seems to be forgotten.
Though of course this trend is not to be seen as a stereotype, its occurrence—any occurrence—is shameful and disappointing.
I have had the pleasure of befriending many kind, considerate, and for a lack of better words, amazing doctors. I hope I can one day be half the person they are. Every time I speak with them, I am reminded of why I had any interest in medicine at all in the first place and they inspire me once again.
So what can we as pre-medical and medical students make of this? In the pursuit of the white coat, let us not forget one essential aspect of the Hippocratic Oath: “…warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.” Throughout your studies always remember to take a step back from it all and just take a moment to think. Remember compassion, remember the care that you wish to give, and remember the care you have received. Take that to heart and your care for patients will be well on its way to being unequivocally sound.