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Defining a Good Doctor

Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician and father of Western medicine, once said, “To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.” The Hippocratic Oath defined moral medicine centuries ago, and although times have changed, the essence remains the same to this day. Many doctors follow these principles formed years ago. This past year, my family was in a major car accident that changed my life. The physicians who treated my mother following the incident demonstrated the qualities of the Hippocratic Oath.

Boom! The car ran into the side of the cliff as torrential rain masked everything in the distance. In a matter of seconds, the car was totaled, and my parents were rushed to the emergency room. My father’s ribs were bruised and mother needed several emergency surgeries. She suffered fractures of her maxilla, proximal humerus, hip and foot. Fortunately, all her surgeries were successful, but her recovery treatment is what showed me the true qualities of a good doctor.

The physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians played an instrumental role in my mother’s recovery. Unfortunately, after her surgeries, she contracted MRSA infection; soon after, she developed erythroderma. As a result of limited shoulder movement after surgery, she now is suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome, or adhesive capsulitis. A team of physiatrists, otolaryngologists and orthopedic surgeons have helped her tremendously thus far in the recovery process. Her walking has improved substantially, but her arm movements still remain impaired. My mother continues to exercise and undergo physical therapy to improve her limited range of motion. The physicians exhibited qualities of good doctors by showing empathy, perseverance and providing motivation to my mother to improve her health. Sometimes, even the smallest gesture of encouragement during exercise or a simple smile on a painful day made her life easier. The constant support and dedication of her health care team showed me the characteristics of good physicians. During this time, I realized that good doctors are not only intelligent and hardworking, but also compassionate, enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging.

This traumatic experience has affected my family extensively and opened my eyes to the humanistic component of medicine. The rehabilitation and recovery process is important in any patient’s life, and physicians play a part in caring for individuals suffering from such injuries. My mother’s perseverance throughout this ordeal has shown me the strength and courage of injured patients to get healthy. Although sometimes a slow process, it is very gratifying to make a difference in someone’s life by helping them walk, perform chores or simply regain mobility. The physicians showed me how to stay humble, remain open and trustworthy, and genuinely be a good human. A good physician is someone that listens to their patients, answers all their questions thoroughly, and personifies the Hippocratic Oath.

Clearly, Hippocrates expressed his ideas about a good doctor years ago. Personally, I think the morals remain essentially the same but have evolved over time. As new technology develops and systems become more computerized, physicians need to stay loyal to the humanistic part of medicine. Physicians must remember the values Hippocrates emphasized centuries ago and continue to work hard to maintain them. Scientific discoveries and breakthrough treatments will continue to help patients improve their health and fight disease. However, conscientiousness, dedication, honesty, encouragement and compassion will always be important characteristics that epitomize a good doctor and truly heal the patient’s mind, body and soul.

Shan Desai (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine

Shan is in the Class of 2016 at University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine.