An Ode to Love at DTMH

21 Feb 2018

Kani Varshneya, DTMH February 2018

Okay yes, I should have done a Diploma in Philosophy. But since I am here in February during the so branded valentine’s month, surrounded by beating hearts and reeling from the treacherous tyranny of a dear love lost, I feel I must infuse a bit of a reflective philosophical twang to our proceedings at the DTMH course, let’s talk about love.

It’s in the air isn’t it. Tom Solomon’s prophecy about how many lonely hearts meet at this course is slowly coming into fruition as week 4 is upon us. While some of us are still learning names, others are staring down microscopes at their lonely malaria gametocyte looking for its gametocyte pair, and then there are some who just can’t get enough of staring into each others’ eyes. Yes, you know who you are. Hans and Monika are #relationship goals, and then some.

But between all the raging hormones, isn’t Love why we are here, ladies and gentlemen. We love what we do and it is more than obvious our professors at LSTM do too. Medicine is not just a profession for a lot of us, it’s that narcissistic lover that takes more and more and often refuses to give, yet we’re still madly entrapped in its seduction. It tires us, burns us out, we do not know day from night, family from friends, but when that call comes about a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria there is nothing more to it, you’re there. You are there in your full and entire capacity, mind body and soul- tending to the true love of your life.

Alain de Botton claims the notion of romanticism has overstayed its welcome, its plagued the world since it began in mid 18th century Europe and the concept isn’t entirely lost on doctors, and certainly not on DTMHers. We claim to be a brand of realist doctors, and between the vast range and levels of experiences- we have seen a lot and done a lot more, in all corners of the globe. We share a common disdain for the world’s inequities and passion for doing something to affect change and make a difference.

Though there are times I and perhaps some of you become acutely aware of the notions of glory and romanticism that seeps into our conscious ego. I often find we are treading on thin ice (much like that of Snowdon this weekend, okay, sorry) balancing the acts of our compassion for humanity, a semi god complex and grand notion of altruism, but often oblivious to our personal motivations. Is the notion of ‘giving’ in this profession as selfish as it is selfless? Are we doing what we do for the sheer expansive love for human health and alleviation of suffering or somewhere begin using and fuelling the notion of making a difference as a jigsaw piece for our inherent incompleteness? And ultimately, I guess, does it really matter?

A tangent to further set off an existential crisis and I apologise, did it matter for Dr Bawa-Garba? A story expanded on by journalist Deborah Cohen this week, a doctor with a background of years of painstaking exemplary work, training hours, exams and sheer love and dedication for her profession, betrayed so frivolously and heartlessly at the hands of this love, punished for gross systemic failures, picking up the slack when no one else would, for a death that was not her doing.

So, as we stare dewy eyed at the hottie across the lecture hall, it is time for some reflection upon the intricacies of our own love affair with our work, challenge our motivations and perhaps to look within to find and feed an expansive and generous source of love and compassion for ourselves, our peers and wider humanity. Love has to be what makes the world go round.

Kani Varshneya