On Doctors, Doctors’ Strikes and the Harsh Reality

A friend recently observed that I had “mellowed” or cooled down on the issue of doctors and their striking. He wondered if my mellowing was a result of the fact that I am dating a doctor. He remarked that since the issue is close to me, I now understood the position of doctors.

I didn’t say much then, perhaps because I hadn’t really thought about it… or perhaps because of my new “no-unnecessary-arguments” policy. I did think about it though, and I now realize why I have mellowed on the issue of doctors’ strikes.

Growing up, I placed doctors, or perhaps the medical profession on a very high pedestal. To my young mind, doctors were extremely brilliant, extremely talented individuals who sacrificed everything to save lives. Doctors were walking encyclopedias who could miraculously know what you were thinking at any moment in time. Looking back, my first doctor, Dr. Bennett had a lot to do with this impression, because he was amazing. Even though he was a bit on the short side, anytime he entered a room, he filled it with his presence. And I, who would cry and cry before taking the sweet Multivite syrup, would gulp down a cup of Chloroquine syrup if he gave it to me. He was very kind as well, I never heard him shout at anyone, and boy, was he smart! It felt like he knew everything. Did I mention he was cute?

Anyway, when it was time to choose a secondary school and a course, I naturally gravitated towards Visual Arts because I love to draw. However my teachers warned me sternly not to consider it “because a smart girl like you should be a doctor”. I didn’t argue, watching ER with Clooney-the-Swooney gave me another idea of just how amazing doctors could be. I chose Science. However, In final year of secondary school, I was one of the few Science students that didn’t want to go to Medical School. I thought I wasn’t nice enough to be a doctor and I knew I didn’t care enough about people to pull it off. Dr. Bennett was my standard, and honestly, I thought a lot of the other girls who were gunning to be doctors were not nice enough to be doctors either.

A lot of these feelings were enforced when I got to the university and realized just how different things in the “real world” were from the purple-tinted world in my head. I was reading a lot of er errrrm socialist and activist literature and I was on fire! I was tired of complaining and I wanted to change the world (still do).

I didn’t understand Doctors’ strikes because in my mind, I thought they were “bigger” than the rest of us, that they were special, and that they were all decided to become doctors so they could help people. The problem is, I was projecting the image of what I wanted them to be and it didn’t fit. This upset me and I kept reacting to them, their demands and strikes. I was disappointed, disillusioned, and frankly, hurt.

Good news is I’m no longer disappointed, because after 6 years in the university, I realize that very few people get into the programs they really want to be in. I realize that even some people doing courses they wanted to do in the beginning change their minds along the way and yet cannot quit because of their families and what society would think of them. I realize that a lot of parents force their kids into courses, and these students are usually very miserable. Above all, I realize that perhaps, the reason some people decide (or are forced) to do certain courses is because of the perception that these courses lead to well-paying jobs.

I know that many medical students enter university with the highest SSSCE or WASSCE grades, and were usually among the best and brightest students in their secondary schools. Perhaps,  they expected to be on top of the world….

Unfortunately, it seems like between 10 -15 (?) years after school, in Ghana at least, the people that look like they are on top of the world (in terms of wealth) are rarely doctors. It’s the contractors, politicians, pastors, businesswomen and men…etc.

So imagine growing up, always in the top 5 of your class… intelligent and always being praised by your teachers and peers… and now being faced with the reality that… that dummkopf who was always in the bottomt 5 of your class.. who’s probably an MP or Pastor or Contractor now… can afford to spend your monthly salary on one pair of shoes.

I would be disappointed too, so I understand.

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