Muslim doctors need to learn humility

American medical student Aisha Mehmet argues that Muslim doctors should beware of losing their sense of vocation in an increasingly highly rewarded field.

Our Muslim parents, mentors and teachers tell us that it’s essential that we strive to practice the noble virtue of humility, and keep our easily inflatable egos in-check.

The greatest leader of mankind, the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once eloquently said: “In humbleness is my pride.” True leadership can only be achieved when we learn to stand next to people, and not above them.

However, the “real world” is a place where power and position often speak louder than principles, where being modest and meek is discouraged and viewed as a sign of cowardice. Young minds are taught that life is a Ferrari, and only by engaging in fierce competition will they make it to the driving seat.

And as a medical student, it deeply troubles and profoundly saddens me when I witness and realize just how much this beautiful and essential virtue – humility – is slowly dying in the field of medicine.

Commercialization

Firstly, the entire medical profession has become completely commercialized, from the time you apply to medical school until the time you start practicing.

Students are mainly admitted into medical school based on their academic achievements; they are not recruited based on their personality. Some schools interview the student, some don’t. Some make you write an essay on why you want to become a doctor, some don’t. And I’ve seen several admission forms that openly ask who will be financing the education.

So, if you can’t afford it even if you’re a qualified candidate for medicine, the chances are that your application may either get rejected, or end up at the bottom of the stack. At that point, you either need a scholarship to help you or do what most are doing these days, which is take a loan out to fund your education. Of course, because it’s pure “riba”, the moment you’re out of med school you’re already in debt to the tune of $250,000 plus.

Time is money

Secondly, some doctors don’t spend more than three to five minutes per patient even if it happens to be a complicated case. The increased frequency of patients per hour is creating new justifications for some doctors to not connect with their patients in greater depth. A good doctor will spend at least 10-20 minutes talking a thorough history of the patient if it’s a long case. If it’s less than that (which is typical these days), it means that the doctor did not question the patient enough to have reached an accurate diagnosis. If doctors provide incorrect diagnosis they can get sued. Patients have used lawyers similar to Muth Law, PC to get compensation for the issues caused by a false diagnosis.

And even if the doctor is experienced and the diagnosis is correct, not spending enough time listening to, and establishing a rapport with the patient, can make him/her feel disregarded. The patient thinks: “I’ve been waiting for over three hours, and the doctor just spent only three minutes with me!?” If doctors don’t invest the right amount of time, their patients will be dissatisfied.

Basically, it’s a very fast process these days, unlike in the past when the doctor used to invest more into the patient, giving them more time to think through the options.

But the problem today is that even the genuinely sincere doctors have to go with the flow and try to survive within a system which has been deliberately set up to function this way. Pharmaceutical companies, especially, play a very powerful role in the system. If you rebel against it, you lose your license and can’t practice anymore (which is why many doctors set up their own private clinics where they can have more a bit more freedom).

Lack of passion

Moreover, some doctors just have poor communication skills, they can’t connect with their patients and they fail to show empathy. Surgeons and neurosurgeons are well known to be suffering with a “God complex”. Other doctors become very desensitized as everything becomes routine.

But the main problem I see is a lack of passion. Very few doctors are truly passionate about their profession; most just see it as a “job” and they decided to become doctors in the first place because of how much it pays. Of course, it is hard to ignore the financial benefits of working as a doctor, especially with the generous physicians loans that the role offers, but you would expect more doctors to have a genuine passion for what they do.

Sure, everyone wants to create a good life for themselves and their families, but today we have an excess of people entering medicine who really aren’t fit for the job. If you’re not passionate or zealous to help, heal, serve and save another human-being’s life, then you’re in the wrong field. The priority is the patient, not the doctor and if a medical student or medical trainee or even a graduate from med school doesn’t understand that, then they’re really not fit for this profession in the first place.

You have to be a “people person”, have certain social skills and really love what you do and only by having these traits (besides thorough medical knowledge of course!) will you, as a healer, be able to truly do justice to this field.

So it’s imperative and incumbent upon medical students (who will be tomorrow’s leading doctors) to sincerely bear in mind that we should never allow academic brilliance to extinguish the light of our humility as healers.

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