This was a letter to editor of HT written by me 2 yrs ago..never emailed..
The Editor,
Hindustan times,
New Delhi.

Subject—a doctor’s response to “IT’s getting worrisome”

Respected Sir/ma’am,

This is in response to the article “IT’s getting worrisome” on page 12 on Sunday the 4th of may 2008. I really appreciate the writer manoj sharma who has given the story a very catchy heading & started the article with an almost macabre story about the flip side of the hefty pay-packages in the IT industry. He has also collected interesting figures about depression, suicide, divorces etc from professional sources like NIMHANS, lawyers in connection to the IT industry. Every middle class Indian wants his son to make it to the IIT & finally into this IT industry offering hefty packages, so showing the flipside is a good idea. That’s the real reason for the readers interest in your story ”what goes behind the scenes in the life of these fast earning computer geeks?”
If your purpose is not just a catchy news article but drawing the attention of the masses towards an alarming problem, then why not take up a less glamorous but more prevalent cause?? The DOCTORS.

In the recent years more and more articles are focused on the IT industry—life style changes due to hefty pay packages, stress due to long working hours, books by engineers etc etc. I think it’s due to M factor—money, money & more money. so it will give you more readership. why has everybody forgotten the man (err…no gender bias here,indicates the species) with the healing touch?

The last few yrs have shown a steady decline in those who take up biology in school, a fall in the no. of PMT aspirants, a rise in rate of doctors wanting to work abroad, a rise in dissatisfaction among doctors, a rise in doctors trying to crack the CAT & pursuing MBA, a decline in no. of PG seats due to reservation, a rise in delayed marriages for doctors, more stringent laws for doctors—be it practice or post graduation or migration to USA or UK—and add to it the lovely suggestion by the attention seeking health minister that doctors should work as interns for 2yrs & out of which 1yr in rural area.
Scene1—-“you sat together in school ,shared tiffins, shared experiences happily with your classmate who if not less intelligent than you but may be at par in studies…then your sections changed when you took up biology intending to become a physician & he took up maths intending to become an engineer…you remained in touch happily— tuition tales, then selection parties, then college fest stories, school reunions etc… till one day your graduation was about to finish in 6 months & you were pondering that how will I juggle working hours as an intern (which will fetch a stipend of about 5000 Rs per month) with PG preparation? when your old pal calls you up to inform that he has shifted to Bangalore & is earning about 10 lac per annum in the IT industry. You congratulate him happily…but you suddenly feel that just after graduation he is earning ten lac and you not even 1 lac.. Even after PG (which is becoming more difficult to crack day by day) you wont earn that much for yrs to come”

You are not jealous of your pal but are merely comparing the scenario in terms of money. This is one cause of growing dissatisfaction among doctors. so they are turning towards MBA

Scene2—“As a resident in surgery or obs-gyn or medicine one can tell you the endless nights per week they don’t sleep at all or sleep for 2 hrs at most and then the next day work till midnight again. They are scolded constantly by the senior residents or consultants…they are human beings too. They vent their frustration on unsuspecting friends, relatives…they cant visit their home towns for months…..they are stressed out & depressed… Patients visit quacks who spoil the cases and when the patient is about to die he is brought to the casualty of a govt. hospital where despite prompt medical help the patient dies but these villagers blame the residents in the hospital and beat them up….all this too adds to the doctors’ woes”But since they are not as famous as the high earning software professionals sitting in Air-conditioned rooms no reporter wants to write about them

Scene3—“a depressed resident commits suicide, a medicine undergraduate commits suicide….but no history of psychiatric consultation is found. Though its said that depressed people tend to seek help before resorting to suicide…they may have found it difficult to consult a fellow doctor about their personal issues & frustrations….his colleagues are coping well he thinks….there is cut throat competition in medical world too & it definitely takes its toll on a doctors life…supposed to be strong but they are also fragile human beings…also exposing their problems to a psychiatrist they know may be embarrassing unlike for other people who would hesitate less before meeting a psychiatrist” There are big articles about rising suicides in IIT but not much of an issue if increasing no. of medicos attempt 2 end their lives…..they are meant to heal the wounded but no one notices that they may be wounded healers themselves

Scene4—“front page news—BAPIO gets a court order that Indian doctors in UK can work there with Europeans……hey!wait a sec!what forced these doctors to alien lands?? a search for a better life & good pay—because in India life for doctors is not that easy…also why are we bothered about the plight of Indian doctors working in US &UK when we don’t have time to think about the problems facing young Indian doctors in India itself? because it’s a foreign land and so we can point a finger at them to say you are mistreating Indians & make it an issue of racial discrimination for good readership. And also because “blame-game” is a pet Indian pass time . the rules of the game do not allow Indians to introspect and see our own troubles but the neighbor’s family feud is worth a talk.

Scene5—despite getting married many medicos pursuing post graduation are living separately in different cities…….they meet just once in months…when they start a family (which would be delayed of coarse) its difficult for them also to juggle between work & family…marital discord & divorces are as rampant in their lives but why bother about the bedroom of a doctor who is meant to serve the ailing souls when we have IPL and redskins to bother about? Big IT firms organize picnics, get together, counseling, yoga etc for their computer geeks but not many hospitals plan such activities for overworked residents….the ministers are more bothered about the smoke around shahrukh khan than the fact that frustrated medicos despite knowing the hazards of smoking are among the top consumers of cigarettes . instead of providing better infrastructure in rural areas doctors after yrs of toil in a medical college should land up in a village. where should the doctors kids study? in village pathshaala of coarse!! I don’t say that doctors should not serve the rural India(real India—rural India!) but just notice the effect it has on the doctors life too. Provision of better facilities will help the villagers first. Clean drinking water will bring down diarrhea deaths in villages but instead of focusing on these things ministers want to send interns to villages for a year…..why not make it compulsory for engineers to work for a year in rural India for better roads, electricity,computer connectivity to villages etc ?why not send MPs, MLAs to atleast visit the villages in their constituencies once a yr? why not ask reporters to write about villagers&their problems instead of writing about salman rushdie’s divorce?

Scene6—kidney kingpin caught —amazing headlines. patient dies on gate of private hospital—another news. These are merely the black sheep of the family of physicians. But these are given front page status& a small mistake by a doctor is hyped in news. I agree that mistakes on part of doctors may be life threatening for a patient, but then why not focus a little on the doctors life? ease his burden a little….look at him from a humanitarian point of view…focus not only on his mistakes but also on his accomplishments& problems. Only extremely rare cases treated by doctors or an innovative surgical technique make it to news headlines whereas a doctor cures scores of patients &saves lives constantly…

To conclude I would quote erich segal , author of the novel-doctors “Do not forget that Though they treat the wounded they may be wounded healers themselves…..”

Thanking you,
Dr. Sonal