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I Regret Being A Medical Doctor’. by Aderinola (m): 5:40pm on February 9
Aderinola Bunmi
Science Laboratory Technology
Aspirant, Nigeria.
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While growing up, it was fashionable to see parents choose career paths for their children and wards. You’re not going to ‘amount to anything’ if you graduate with a single honours degree is a popular cliché way back then. Parents often boast about their children reading medicine, engineering and law; you’ll be forgiven as a young student if you think the university is only about reading these courses. Even career clinics often focus on these ‘super’ courses.

But over time, things started changing when business administration and related courses started taking the front burner buoyed by the emergence of “wonder banks” and societal emphasis on ‘making money.’ Suddenly values that we hold dear started eroding as “making money” became the norm. Nobody cares anymore how the money was made, all that matters is that you are rich.

That was the beginning of the ‘demystification’ of medicine, engineering and law. Why bother spending years in the university when you’re not sure of what the future hold became pronounced. People started questioning whether reading these courses was worth all the troubles after all.

I met a young medical doctor recently who expressed regrets for studying medicine and qualifying as a doctor. “If I had a singing talent like Dr. Sid I would have jettisoned my stethoscope for the music scene,” he said to my surprise. For the records, Sidney Onoriode Esiri, who goes by the stage name, Dr. Sid is a Nigerian singer-songwriter and dentist.

We discussed at length for more than an hour because this came as a shock to me especially as I have always held doctors – and the medical profession – in very high regard and would have loved to be one had I been a science student. This is because my lifestyle, comportment, deep reading culture and discipline correlates with what makes a good doctor.

As I struggled to encourage this young doctor that he has nothing to regret, my mind went back almost fifteen years ago to a discussion I had with a doctor friend while I was still in the university. This doctor also expressed regrets at the poor human resources planning and structures, unsatisfactory working conditions, poor remuneration, and few professional development opportunities back then.

When he saw the “progress” his colleagues who read Economics and Business Administration were making during the banking “boom” of the Abacha era, he told me he was in “the wrong profession.” In my young mind then, I remembered telling him that all that was happening was a bubble that will burst someday. And true to my prediction, the bubble did burst and my older friend said I should consider calling myself a prophet!

During that period, 19 banks collapsed leading to the Failed Banks Decree promulgated by late General Sani Abacha which was decreed into law to teach Nigerian bankers who mess with depositors fund a lesson. Unfortunately, there were other bank failures later before the sanity we are now witnessing. When I related all these, the young man felt a bit relieved, especially as I pointed out that even the present day society does not see the doctor as “relevant” as they were up to the 90s.

After much probing, I discovered that he truly loves the profession even though the stress associated with it is not commensurate with the financial rewards. “As a medical doctor, it’s an endless journey of reading and personal development. There are new discoveries almost on a daily basis and if you do not keep track you’ll be left behind. Keeping track means you have to prepare and pass your professional examinations otherwise there’ll be no room for advancement,” he told me, “but one of my major problems is the way the society treats doctors.”

I agreed with him. If you doubt that take a look around and see how the society is now obsessed with “celebrities” of various hues and shapes; some are instant celebrities because they participate in a show/event or feature in a movie. The society doesn’t even bother if an individual is an illiterate moneybag, corrupt public official or a person of dubious character. It is no longer a secret that this has been taken notches further when such individuals are awarded honorary doctorate degrees by our universities. These are the “doctors” our society recognises and adore!

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria currently posts a poor doctor-patient ratio of 1:3500 as against the standard of 1:600. It also said the entire medical schools graduate between 3,500 and 4,000 new doctors annually. Another statistics has 1:6500 doctor-patient ratios. According to the NMA, Nigeria has about 45,000 medical doctors for a population of over 180 million. Ironically, the country does not seem to have the capacity to absorb the products from its medical schools.

One would expect a call to action irrespective of which ratio is used. Without doubt, we have a dare situation on our hands as some rural areas in Nigeria do not even have functional primary health centers. The Ebola issue of our recent past shook us out of our lethargy and brought out the best in our doctors. Our doctors showed their magnanimity by suspending an ongoing strike to effectively tackle the national emergency. I had thought that period would have served as a springboard for the government and the society to seriously look into some of the issues the doctors tabled before their strike action. The issues are still there to date.

Delivering a lecture titled “Medical Education in Nigeria: The Quest for World Standards and Local relevance,” held at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in 2012, the former Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu said only 5 percent of applicants gained admission to read medicine. Of these, 2,701 trained in Nigeria left the country to other countries to work in the last four years prior to 2012 – the statistics is worse today.

It is amazing that with this exodus of our doctors we don’t seem to get it. The late Dr. Amayo Adadevoh and other doctors who remained and died as a result of Ebola are professionals who have spent years in training; the late Dr. Adadevoh was a consultant. Does the society really know what it takes for a doctor to become a consultant? We have lost, and may still lose some of our finest professionals because of the way we treat them.

It is not rocket science to understand why some of them are leaving as the working conditions is getting worse, thereby making other countries more attractive. Some of our doctors are presently working in the US, Britain, South Africa, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Trinidad and Tobago and other neigbouring African countries that treat their medical personnel better.

Whenever I encounter medical practitioners and I see the evident lack of rewards for people who save lives, I always feel pained. To compound issues, whenever they demand what should ordinarily be their entitlement after spending years in medical school and a longer period preparing for other professional examinations, society is quick to condemn and remind them of their obligation to the same society that has scant regards for their own plights.

Recollect that prior to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) suspending its strike during the Ebola crisis, there appears to be nothing, either from the people in government or those of us outside, to show that we appreciate the fact that lives of ordinary Nigerians are already hanging in the balance as a result of the strike by doctors working in public health institutions across the country. But does it matter in a system so perverted that public officials now make it a culture that they travel abroad for simple medical check-up that can be done in Nigeria?

My advice to young Nigerian students who have the love of the profession at heart is this: Go ahead and read medicine in the university because it will always remain a noble and dignified profession. You should not look up to society or the government for your fulfillment; just follow the conviction of your heart. Everything about life cannot be viewed from the narrow prism of money. There are still things money can never buy, and being a qualified medical doctor is one of such.

Source: http://thenationonlineng.net/i-regret-being-a-medical-doctor-2/

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