In this same hospital, I encountered consultants I either really liked or really disliked. To set the scene, there were quite a few consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists who met regularly at meetings, and around half of them were female, half male. Dr Ergometrine, Dr Embryo, Dr CTG and Dr Foetus were the male consultants; Dr Syntometrine, Dr Anti-D, Dr Suck-up, Dr No-back-bone were the female consultants. And leading the group, or at least trying to, was Dr Brash.
Dr Brash was a small gaunt lady with dark boy-cut hair. Now, drug companies regularly send representatives to give very short presentations or explanations to doctors at their meetings. It is commonly accepted that they organise five to ten minutes in a meeting that doctors will attend anyway, and they usually bring abundant food for the doctors to have. Sometimes they are deemed obnoxious, but most of the time, doctors (and medical students) greatly look forward to sitting down with no pressure and eating the food. I’m not saying they are brilliant people–nothing in this world is for free, and I am sure there is huge element of capitalist give-and-take here: they clearly want to buy the time for them to advertise and market their products, sure. Still, I do not agree with Dr Brash’s behaviour. She came into the meeting room–packed with thirty or more people–a few minutes late, and proudly received the smiles from Drs Suck-up and No-back-bone, and even a coffee that Dr No-back-bone had personally bought, personally saved for her and tackled through the packed room to personally present. She then looked up and blinked a few times at the drug company representatives who were presenting. She turned around to her wide-eyed fans and mouthed a question, asking who had invited these reps. “Oh, I don’t know!” the two female doctors replied, leaning forward with overly bewildered expressions to eagerly present their grovelling answer. Dr Brash, still looking dramatically confused, crept over with her coffee to Dr Syntometrine, who was clearly aware of what Dr Brash was approaching for, and was ready as soon as Dr Brash opened her mouth to stop her by saying, “I don’t know.” Dr Brash, brushing off the interruption, rose from the floor and said to the reps, “Excuse me!” The reps, mid-presentation, stopped at the second or third “excuse me” and looked at Dr Brash. “I’m sorry, but who invited you?” Dr Brash questioned. The reps were silent for a second and then replied that a “Roy” had done so. “Our registrar, I see. Well, we don’t usually have drug reps in this meeting, you see. Now… it seems a bit childish to ask you to leave when you have come all this way. May I ask how long the presentation will be?” The drug reps, poor things, gave a hearty reply that it wouldn’t last long–perhaps five to ten minutes. “Right,” Dr Brash replied, “then I will return in ten minutes.” And with that, she left.
With this story, I hope I have been successful in planting in your heads the characters of a few of these doctors. Dr Brash was most definitely not one of the my favourite consultants. She proudly relished vainglory for herself, and how ungraceful her character seemed to me! She was the very example of a doctor I did not want to become–how pitiful it would be to have the best intellect when you cannot gain the true love and respect of fellow comrades and patients. Now, perhaps you gained some insight into Dr Syntometrine–the woman who did not humour petty nonsense. She was the consultant I was allocated under and a doctor I admired. She never complained about her patients, never joked crudely about anyone, and she treated everyone with respect–this all done with a solemn face that easily broke out into a kind smile. When a 16-year-old patient came in from the ward to her clinic, the patient pointed at me and asked, “Who is that?” “This is my medical student, Emily.” “Why is she so young?” the patient cried. “Yes,” Dr Syntometrine replied, eyeing me, who had a rather serious look on my face, “they get younger every year.” You may have noticed she called me Emily. Hahaha. She called me that for a good week or more, and I had not the heart to tell her she was calling me by the wrong name. She had remembered it began with an E and I suppose that was good enough for me. I really didn’t mind–we medical students come and go, and I was soon to leave. If she wanted to call me Emily, then say hello to Emily! But later, when I introduced myself to a patient, she continued the consultation and as soon as the patient left, she held her head and cried, “I was calling you Emily and you didn’t correct me!” I laughed and replied, “It doesn’t matter.” She slammed the desk and exclaimed, “Yes, it does!” That was quite sweet. But really, it didn’t matter to me. I remember when one slightly worried patient came in for a consultation and trans-vaginal ultrasound, the patient said she was getting pains in her abdomen and wandered if something was wrong with her gall bladder. Dr Syntometrine, with her deadpan face, looked at her abdomen and said, “Well. This isn’t really my area…” But as she spoke, she picked up the broader ultrasound head, gelled it, and started scanning the upper abdomen. I don’t know why, but that image gave me a strange feeling. I had been with so many consultants who were snide and who didn’t go much out of the way for their patients. But this consultant, regardless of not being a gastroenterologist and unlike the others who would have brushed it away or straight away told the patient to ask their GP for a new gastroenterology referral, quietly tried to see if she could find anything and in doing so, comforted the patient.
From one end to the other. Dr Suck-up. Again, I’ll tell you one story of this doctor. As Dr Syntometrine did not deliver babies, I had to go on a search to find a birth to observe. I found out that Dr Suck-up was delivering and so I entered her theatre. I didn’t know anything about Dr Suck-up, and had I talked to my friend Reginald, I would have found out that he had had a bad experience with this consultant. We went around in the theatre introducing ourselves–something most theatres do–and I remember saying that I was Esther, the fourth year medical student, and I remember glancing at Dr Suck-up to see her nod at me. She left the delivering to her registrar and she stayed at the back, gossiping with the female anaesthetist. I even remember them looking at me whilst talking and my eyes meeting with Dr Suck-up’s, to which she had hastily looked away. I had the patient’s history saved in my head to present to a consultant. When Dr Suck-up reached the door to leave after the delivery, I stopped her, saying, “Sorry to disturb you, Dr. I was wondering if I could get signed off?” I thought it, and still do, best to word such a request like that, as different consultants have different styles: some want you to present the history, some want to just sign you off so they have less of a hassle, etc, so it is best to ask like so and then the consultant can reply with what they desire from you. Dr Suck-up was clearly different. She stared back at me, looked down at my log book and spat, “Sign you off? For what?” I kept my ground. “For observing the birth.” She looked at the log book. “This is not a presentation! You must present the patient!” I was getting bewildered, but kept still. “Yes, I can present if you’d like.” She clearly did not want to let me present, and she did not want to give in to what I can only call a tantrum. She was incredibly snide and was acting like I was asking for her to be a surrogate mother for my babies. “No, for a presentation you must have looked at the notes and you must know the history! This is not a presentation!” It was quite a sad sight, thinking back. She was trying to look at me with a confident air of superiority and right, but her gaze kept wavering; the poor woman was trying to act hard, but all I could see was a pathetic stubbornness. I gave up on her. Regardless of the fact I had a presentation ready for her, I stepped away with a brisk nod and disbelief within. Angered, but trying to keep my cool, I approached the consultant anaesthetist (not the one who was gossiping with Dr Suck-up) and asked him to sign me off instead. He was a tall man with an accent and was new to being a consultant; he very keenly signed my book after hearing my presentation. I took my book and very boldly walked through the ward, past Dr Suck-up, and home. I won’t lie; I was really annoyed at the way I was spoken to. I heard later that my friend Reginald had been shouted at in the theatre in front of all the staff by Dr Suck-up to leave at once as he had no right to be there. She is one doctor I do not want to be like, thank you very much. The utter disrespect she showed us medical students, and then the utterly spineless grovelling at Dr Brash’s feet, really put me off her.
I seem to have a lot to write about H. Hospital. I must write a Part 3.