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A Medical Journey

Mohan Rao

By Sandeep Jauhar
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 299, Rs. 350.00


You just have to survey medical prescriptions to know that doctors shy away from the pen. In that sense Dr.Sandeep Jauhar is an unusual doctor. A ‘thriving cardiologist’, his bio informs us, he writes regularly on medical issues for the New York Times, apart, of course, from academic journals. Even more unusual, he qualified as a physicist, with a Ph.D. before turning to medicine. Why on earth did he do this? Of course, as an American of Indian origin his parents wanted him to be a doctor; his elder brother was already one; above all he was dissatisfied with the entirely abstract world of theoretical physics and wanted to tangle with the ‘real world.’ This book tracks his journey, as an intern, as a resident, and finally as a specialist in New York.   As an intern it is an unrelenting struggle, coping with the patient load—which leaves little time for empathy, or indeed even listening to a patient, the strain of long hours of work with little sleep, the lack of community feeling among doctors and the pecking order with interns at the bottom, theirs but to do and die. The huge load of technology carries with it not only the need for extra skills, but might also mean a loss of clinical acumen and good history taking: why bother when a machine can tell you what you think you need to know? The unbelievable pressures as an intern see him asking himself, can he cope at all? Is the decision to switch to medicine a wise one? His elder brother tells him he just has to harden himself; his parents say they are finally proud that he will have a well-paid profession. His fiancée too is training to be a doctor and her father—also of Indian origin- lets him know at a jagran that they would welcome a cardiologist in the family. He copes, but not before going through a breakdown. He not only manages to survive his dark depression and doubts, he comes to flourish.   Medicine, Jauhar discovers, is not all that it is said to be. For someone who wished to engage with the real world, there is little to show that he gets entangled with it. It is only once that he makes a house visit. He sits holding his former patient’s hands, since he has forgotten the instruments through ...

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