The flight from Bangalore to Frankfurt was delayed by one hour due to late arrival of the plane from Frankfurt on the previous leg. The wait was rather boring and such delays at the beginning of the journey have the effect of making one feel tired even before the journey starts. Once inside the magnificent Boeing 747-800, the atmosphere was altogether different. The mind was working on a different plane now and started wondering how such a big metal bird floats in the air at speeds in excess of 600 miles an hour carrying over 400 passengers and crew. The redesigned and highly efficient new aircraft, introduced only last year by Lufthansa between Bangalore and Frankfurt, took off with relatively less noise level and started doing its job unmindful of other things. Boeing claims that this aircraft is more than 10 percent lighter per seat and consumes 11 percent less fuel per passenger than its nearest competitor Airbus A380. This translates to a trip cost reduction of 21 percent in terms of seat-mile. The journey is enjoyable due to the perception of lighter per seat weight even for those passengers whose own weight has not come down despite several crash weight reduction programs!
Persons sitting by our side on long haul flights generally tend to sleep off and avoid conversation with strangers. But once drawn to talking we can find some very interesting personalities among them. Towards the end of the flight I succeeded in drawing the person sitting next to me into a conversation, though I suspect that he will be claiming that he succeeded in drawing me out of my shell. Either way, it was an enjoyable two hours of talk and the fact that he was a dozen years older did not come in the way of our discussions.
He turned out to be a Doctor from South India, a Pediatrician, who moved to USA in the late 1960s. His father was also a Doctor and was instrumental in grooming him in his earlier years of practicing medicine. He shared with me some of the learning points he inherited from his father in those formative years of his professional life. The knowledge he thus gained from his father was very interesting and absorbing. Before we parted at Frankfurt I sought his permission to use those fine learning points wherever I found fit. He was very understanding and encouraging and gladly permitted me to dos so.
The young doctor reached USA and wrote his first letter to his father about his status and life in the new land. Writing a letter was the best form of communication in those years as telephone was difficult and electronic communication was nearly non-existent. Within a few days he received a letter from his father listing out the grammatical mistakes in the letter and asking him to rewrite the contents after rectifying the errors! This gives an idea about the rigor adopted by the father in grooming the young doctor. Some of the interesting points he recalled are summarized below:
- Look like a Doctor, feel like a Doctor and behave like a Doctor. That will make you feel confident and earn respect in the community you serve.
- Have a Stethoscope around your neck. (More required in those days). It makes others recognize you as a doctor!
- Never visit a patient with an unshaven face or with a baseball cap. Remember you are visiting a patient or a patient is visiting you. You should not look like a patient yourself.
- Have eye-contact with the patients but do not make it excessive as it may make them uncomfortable.
- Always sit on par with the patient, neither above nor below his seat level. You are neither superior or inferior to him. Treat the patient as a equal human being.
- Treat the mind of the patient. It automatically opens up treatment of the ailing body.
- When the patient is talking keep your mouth shut. Do not interrupt. Let him/her unload whatever he/she has to say. Some part of it may be vital for the course adopted for treatment.
- When the patient is about leave ask him/her whether he/she has anything else to say. Vital information may come out in such moments that may help during treatment.
- Understand the patient. That enables you to understand the disease.
- Do not use medical jargon and terms while talking to a patient. Use simple language which they understand. The patient is interested in getting healed and not in your knowledge as a doctor.
- If the patient starts talking about medical jargon and terms, then you raise the level of your interaction. Let him know you are the boss in your field.
- Treat the patient first for the problem he has come with. Do not discuss and treat some other ailment you may diagnose in him/her. That can follow later.
- Never go to the room of a woman patient without knocking. Even after knocking, never enter the room of a woman patient without a woman nurse or assistant. That may save a lot of troubles later on.
- Do not hesitate to levy a reasonable fee. Remember you have to make a living by practicing medicine. Be considerate to financially weaker patients.
- Finally, relieve the pain and relieve the purse. The patient should feel the first, but not the latter.
Many of these words of wisdom are equally applicable for other professions as well. Teachers and trainers for example.
Just as we were parting at Frankfurt, the doctor mentioned about a woman athlete who had a long and distinguished career and won many laurels and prizes in competitive games. She developed pain in the joints and went to a orthopedic surgeon. The doctor advised her that she needs new joints to replace worn out ones. "No doctor, I am convinced that I do not need new joints", she shot back. "All I need is a new doctor!", she said!