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Social Media: How it Shapes Society’s Perceptions of the Medical Community

Submitted by on November 25, 2014 – 9:11 AM

Social_networking-600x0I always used to feel that children born in non-medical families were luckier than I was. They got to believe in fantasies while my head was swarming with reality.


My existence since the time I was born till now has been engulfed by medicine. The people I meet in parties, my teachers and my friends are doctors. My mother is a hardcore gynecologist and my dad is on the cerebrating side as a psychiatrist so I’ve pretty much seen it all. My siblings are doctors as well.


What was left of my experience I’d like to believe I made up in my clinical rotations. This led me to a conclusion that what people think of a doctor is very different from what it is in real life. Their source is inevitably the social media. Be it television, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. What’s weird is that medical life is grossly exaggerated either way. Let’s look at a few examples.


For one, the general perception that our life is like the soap opera “Greys Anatomy” is sadly, wrong. No we don’t wear scrubs all day. And one cannot look like a model on Vogue Magazine in and after performing a surgery.


Then there is “House”. Performing so many tests on a patient? No again! A Pakistani will be like, “I’d prefer the hakim. This doctor is just playing with me”.


And if he happens to have a very colorful tongue he will add the word “khar dimagha” for your benefit. Moreover the sad part of it is that we Pakistanis cannot afford to have most of these tests. Here we think twice even before asking for an MRI.


Let’s move on to local soap operas. I saw a soap in which the whole point of the whole series was that this girl was having an affair with someone. In the end he happened to be a doctor, to which the grandmother said, “Beware of no one but doctors”. I mean seriously? We save lives too you know.


Then there are soaps in which patients are suing doctors due to negligence. And most of all, the thing that actually kills me is why aren’t doctors in those fairy tales where prince marries a beautiful amazing woman who happens to be anything but a doctor, with exception of “The prince and me”, which happens to be my favorite movie.


While there are some misconceptions presented in the media, there are things that come from the heart of medicine as well. An example is the movie “Patch Adams”. I’ve seen my fair share of “Patch Adam”. They might not be as bright as him but they are a messiah to patients none the less.


Unfortunately though, it is not a misconception but a reality that doctors have a 1.6% suicide rate and it was this very tragic fact that compelled me to write this article. I could write a humongous paragraph on what life of a doctor is like but I’ll tell you an incident instead.


A pregnant doctor had worked all night. When she came home after a 36 hour shift, she fed her two year old daughter and put her to sleep. She cleaned, made food and then finally made herself presentable as her in laws were arriving.


She happened to be Pakistani. When the guests came, food was served and everything went smoothly. But the mother-in-law complained to the husband that she was disappointed because after food she wasn’t offered tea. The husband reassured his mother that his wife was doing her best but the damage had been done.


One week after this incident the doctor applied for maternity leave. Her leave was rejected due to patients’ overload. Few days later she fainted and was forced to undergo Caesarean section. During the Caesarean section she underwent general anesthesia which wore off during surgery. She lay paralyzed due to muscle relaxants feeling every quantum of pain of every tear in her skin and every needle poking in her abdomen.


When she woke up she complained of what happened. She was physically stable but she forgot the maps of streets she grew up in. Did that change the kind of a doctor she was? No! Rather, she was more careful with her patients. This lady happens to be my mother and with the support of my father she overcame the obstacles she faced.


After writing this I must ask: why does it take a doctor to see what a life of medical person is like? One would be remiss to consider that people see outside their own life box. I wouldn’t have if I weren’t a medical student but the lack of understanding is causing the healers of mankind to go mentally and physically extinct.


Certainly there are pros to this life like being well-paid. After all if I haven’t slept in three days in a row it would not hurt to put my Louis Vuitton next to me and fall asleep on my Chenone mattress. My aim is to not point out all the flaws in the social media. It is to elaborate something that the medical community is screaming out for world to listen: our life is demanding and delicate.


Here is an analogy I’d use: A mechanic fixes a machine while it is powered off. We are asked to fix a human while his body (the engine) is still working. We are already working under extreme social pressure. We know who we are fighting for. Who we sacrifice time with our children for? But if the beneficiary in all of this cannot at least understand and encourage us then what is the point?


So while we can why don’t we add what we can to life, not to get what we can from life? And try to understand!


About the Author: Aleena Khalid is a student of Army Medical College, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She is the Vice President of International Federation of Medical Students Association, Rawalpindi. Aleena can be reached at [email protected]


About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2014.

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