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Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation
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DOCTORS DIARY Table of Contents   
Year : 2005  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 101-102
From a Doctor's Memories: The First Lessons in Medicine

Parliament Street, Diab Building, Damascus, Syria

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How to cite this article:
Pharaon S. From a Doctor's Memories: The First Lessons in Medicine. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2005;16:101-2

How to cite this URL:
Pharaon S. From a Doctor's Memories: The First Lessons in Medicine. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2005 [cited 2022 Jan 20];16:101-2. Available from: https://www.sjkdt.org/text.asp?2005/16/1/101/32957
One day, when I was tutoring in one of the general hospitals, I noted how weak the students were in English. I asked them to write an essay in English about why and how they came to choose Medicine as a career and profession. I was surprised and dismayed to note that the majority of them concluded: "because it is a lucrative job that affords a lot of money in the speediest time". As a result I wrote a long essay that I distributed to them. The essay was entitled:
"I become a doctor because my grandfather was a doctor".

As the essay was long, I will simply relate a resume of it, as if it were a tale.

There was once a little boy who liked to stand still, and for long periods of time, on the stone border of the lemon tree so as to peer through the window of the little room in which his beloved granddad used to treat his patients. His patients used to call him "Hakim". The Hakim used to welcome them, greet them, and ask them about their health, about their family members and about their neighbors. He used to re-assure them about their ailment, lift their morale and console them according to the situation. Bit by bit, the boy realized that these words were not mere courtesy but were true and real sentiments that his granddad sensed and lived by. The little boy has a parti­cular recollection of a young man who came to see his granddad having had a deep cut in his hand. He remembers how his granddad was inserting the curved needle in his flesh and the man was crying of pain, as there was, then, no local anesthetic. The Hakim was saying soothing words to the young man and assuring him that it won't take long. Even when he completed the suturing, he kept his nice and kind words going on until the man felt relieved and forgot his pain. His granddad used to visit the surrounding villages, on Fridays, and used to take the little boy, his grandson, with him. He would set up his clinic to treat all ailed villagers in the mansion of the Mokhtar (the mayor).

The boy always noted that some of them put a few pieces of money in the Hakim's hand; others whispered a few words of apology because they were going through hard times and are in a stringent situation, and still some others brought little baskets of fruits or eggs, all they could afford. He was equally kind and had the same smile for all the cases. He, also, used to ask all of them about their kindred and neighbors who were his patients at some time or another. He, also, asked them about their inter-familial problems and differences and he would often offer his opinion and advice to solve these problems. It was clear and fasci­nating to the child that they, all and always, accepted his directives and advice with gratitude and relief.

One day, the boy's granddad fell ill. His cough became louder and more persistent and his temperature was high. In his illness, the Hakim kept caressing and saying kind words to the boy. One of his medical colleagues came to visit him after a few days. He tapped on his chest, brought out a huge syringe and pushed it deep into his bare chest. He withdrew yellowish frothy fluid, which he repeatedly emptied in a large bowl. This procedure of the needle going deep into his granddad's chest and sucking out of that frothy fluid made the boy feel dizzy and nauseated. In his little mind, he realized that a great danger was impending and that his beloved granddad was seriously ill, although the Hakim never complained. While the bewildered boy was watching ominously that chest maneuvers through the half-opened door, his granddad was staring at him with a deep and vague look. He never understood its meaning until two decades later he discovered what it meant to convey; his granddad was giving him the very first lesson in medicine and about the doctor's duties towards himself and towards his patients: to be calm, patient, kind and stoic even in the most dangerous moments.

Two or three days later his granddad died. During his funeral, the boy realized what his granddad meant to all the neighbors and to all the men of the surrounding villages, which he used to visit every Friday. They all partici­pated in the funeral and many were weeping bitterly and silently. His granddad was not rich when he died, but still he was not poor either. The life in his old Arabic house went on for years and years, after his death as it used to be during his lifetime. He and his spirit kept alive and present in every corner of the house and in every event of the day. The boy understood all these facts when he finished his secondary school and realized that his granddad, some two decades back, was, in a taciturn way, pointing to the boy which way to follow and which career to choose: to be a doctor whose sole aim is to carry out his duties faithfully, diligently, patiently and in complete silence. This brilliant picture of the Doctor was engraved in that boy's mind and soul and stayed and will, forever, stay as brilliant and humane as ever.

Yesterday's boy and today's grey-haired doctor, remains with a young and loving heart and soul and wishes that that great picture of the doctor will keep its brilliance, noblesse and altruism throughout all ages that will come. Thus can good health, both somatic and psychic, peaceful co-existence and goodness prevail on this earth. ET IN TERRA PAX.

Correspondence Address:
Sadek Pharaon
Parliament Street, Diab Building, Damascus
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PMID: 18209466

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