At some point or another, almost everybody has wanted to become a Doctor. For those that choose to follow this calling and persevere through the challenging years of medical school, much like Raisa Aysen, they soon come to discover that the journey is one of selflessness, dedication and labour.
Read below as Raisa, a young medical intern enlightens us about the health challenges facing Africans today, her desire to eradicate
the destructive effects of drugs and the most fulfilling aspects of being a medical practitioner…
Full name: Raisa Aysen
Current title/company: Medical Intern
Educational background: MBChb, University of the Witwatersrand
Current city: Cape Town
Raisa, Medicine has always been a noble profession, one many refer to as a calling. Was this the case with you? Take us through the journey you took to becoming a medical professional…
Man. I’m sure all first year students on their first day have every intention to save the world. And then we cruise into hospitals with our fresh stethoscopes around our necks and get slammed into reality. The calling is then a very faint squeal and it’s your environment that motivates you. We learn quickly that medicine isn’t only about the words in the books from medical school. The dimensions are beyond an anatomical field. The body is a fascinating canvas but also very vulnerable and attached to extremely varying people. But I think I always wanted to be a doctor of some sort. I bumped into a primary school friend the other day, and he asked me if I was the paediatrician-that-drew-pictures-for-her-patients that I always said I would become.
Medicine is somewhat of a conundrum – it’s a selfless career, in that you dedicate your life to giving yourself to thousands (if not millions) of patients, however – one cannot deny that it has maintained its reputation as a well-remunerating career. Bearing in mind that we live in a capitalistic society, what is the driver for you?
Of course having a secure profession with the promise of stability and consistency (somewhat) is a shining incentive. The drive has to be something more than just your net income to prompt the move into a specialist career or even just committing to a particular field of medicine. I’d like to think my drive is also patient based. Bearing witness to (and aiding) the restoration of life is some kinda magic.
What do you think is the biggest health challenge facing a) young woman of today b) South Africans today 3) Africans as a whole
Lack of education. And poor socio-economic standing. Every single health issue boils down to one or both of these. I work in the public sector. And everything is perpetuated by poverty and desperation and the need for knowledge. It’s a sad circle. From not knowing that HIV is treatable, to not taking your medicine because you moved to another province and didn’t know there were clinics there, to the girls coming into the delivery room younger and younger.
What impact do you believe health plays in South Africa’s economy?
Look, I know very little about economics, apart from the basics of supply and demand. And I think that when it comes to the public sector, the demand outweighs the supply. At clinics, every fourth person presents with a problem, any problem, in the not-so-subtle hope of getting a government grant- most people truly undeserving. The patient-to-doctor ratio is totally not in proportion. Drugs and laziness (this is a disease), and incorrect referral systems, put large unnecessary strains on the health system and probably on the economy too.
In another perspective, human capital is what keeps the economy rolling. Diseased or unhealthy human capital need more sick days, lessening production, hence affecting the economy in a substantial way!
This is a very close toss-up between drugs and HIV. But again, socioeconomics and education are the ultimate defining factors. And if those could just disappear into nothingness, I would have a whole lot more fun at work.
How did you ultimately determine the medical specialization you were most passionate about? When did the “aha” moment take place?
I actually haven’t had that “aha” moment. I THINK I have them, but every 3-4 months it’s for a different speciality. I’m still playing the field. Children give me an insane amount of energy, but I also get high thrills from being in a theatre with human bits at my finger’s tips.
Do you feel a responsibility to contribute to society? What legacy do you hope to leave?
Absolutely. It’s innate. It’s one of those subliminal messages you’re fed at medical school. But doing something with kindness and with obligation can sometimes produce different results. At this point, all I want to do is save Mitchells Plain from Tik. And then expand. And maybe my legacy would reach Crystal meth addicts worldwide. (You know, I say this with half a heart of jest, but the destruction I’ve seen in my time at Mitchells Plain District Hospital is enough to revive my enthusiasm for saving the world).
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career as Doctor and how have you been able to overcome them?
I’ll give you a scenario. 8 year old girl comes in. Hit and run car accident. There are 3 doctors available and 3 nurses on deck trying to put up a line, find all the injuries, get the vitals, speak to the girl’s family, phone the paediatrician on call etc. The resuscitation is a gruelling 40 minutes, done calmly and according to protocol. But the little girl’s life is not ours to save. THAT is and always will be the biggest challenge for me. Moving away from a situation like that and then immediately continuing to see other patients takes some balls. Debriefing with work colleagues and taking lessons from each situation are good healing. It also allows invariably for general life appreciation. Living with new eyes. Every time.
What is a typical work day like for you?
I’m still a junior doctor. So I have been rotating through different specialties eg. Medicine, Surgery, Paediatrics etc every 4 months. The intention is to get a broad idea on what field interests you the most. I’m currently in psychiatry. So a typical day is speaking to about 20 different acutely psychotic/manic patients, excluding medical reasons for their condition and then outlining a treatment regimen to get them “normal” (or their families idea of normal). A day hospital is more demanding. Here, you have 30-40 patients waiting on you from 5am, for their chronic back ache, or a follow up of the leg they broke last week. You only get there at 8am. And then see the last patient at 4pm. He has waited 11 hours to see you.
What is most fulfilling about being a Medical practitioner?
The kid who couldn’t even walk straight when he came in, that’s now bouncing on his cot screaming his A,B,C’s. Or the old granny that’s so excited to sleep through a whole night without going to the toilet because her Diabetes is controlled. Or the man who dances in the treatment room when the cast comes off his leg. Or the mother that finally delivered after two whole days of labour. (I could go on and on).
Advice for aspiring Medical practitioners?
This is nothing like Grey’s Anatomy. But if you look carefully enough, it can be just as romantic.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order? Raisa Gorbachova. My namesake. To see if she’s really as cool as what my dad thinks she is. And I’d order steak. Coz that’s my favourite. Medium – rare.
I wish I knew how to…teleport
African women are… unaware of the potential and power they possess. (did you see that alliteration?)
South Africa is… progressive
Worst money mistake… Not saving. Or budgeting properly. I make a lot of money mistakes.
Best investment… travelling. With friends. With family. Alone.
Motivation in 3 words… dust yourself off