This blog is about new entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known) in June 1962. Please address all communications to: firstname.lastname@example.org.You may bookmark this page for easier access later.
Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
When I saw the Alfred Hitchcock film “The
Man who knew too much” (1956), the song Que sera sera sung so beautifully by
Doris Day struck an immediate chord. It had the most appealing and honest lyrics.
Its message rings true even now after so many years.
I was a ‘pimple faced’ teenager in the
1950’s. Life was rapidly unfolding before my eyes. It was a troubled time for
Sri Lanka and its people. The SSC and the University Entrance examinations were
looming large in the horizon. I was
often asked “what are you going to do when you grow up” for which I didn’t have
a coherent answer.In those days the
school and our parents decided for us most things and often we accepted their
decision. They provided a form of reassuring
security having our welfare foremost in their minds. That had its benefits. Unlike
nowadays the teenagers were less well informed and were far less independent
and streetwise. I knew so little about careers when I embarked on my journey
into medicine. Today the sky is the limit and there are so many choices. The
schools have careers advisors and there are computer programs to tell us what
we should be doing!! With the privilege
of hindsight I would say, do your own research on careers and trust your own
instincts. Let the mistakes be your own. If one had reasonable ability, the
traditional wisdom in the 1950’s was to drift towards medicine, engineering,
law or accountancy.
Retirement gave me the free time to think
and reflect, a luxury that was in short supply all through my training and
professional career. Although I enjoyed a career in medicine it would not be my
first choice, if I am to choose again.I
would prefer to study the Arts to become a Journalist. From the time I can
recallI have been a dreamer, ever
willing to create pictures with words. I loved putting pen to paper. The plays,
short stories and essays I wrote as a teenager were commended by my peers and
the school. Reading was my hobby. I got
the best grade available for English in the SSC , far superior to any of the sciences. This
perhaps should have made me think further about my choice of profession.
Becoming a journalist was my recurrent dream but I lacked the courage to make a
stand. My knowledge about Journalism as a profession wasn’t adequate to be bold
enough to go against all the advice.
The rough and tumble of a career in
medicine with sleepless nights and a life amidst death and disease was not what
I wanted. Its onerous routines of weekend work and oncallswere restrictive and encroached on my own cherished
space.Life is too short for such long
years of study.My best years were lost
burning the midnight oil. As a teenager I wish I knew what was in store. Like
most things in my life I sleepwalked into the unknown. I was fortunate to have
carved myself a career within medicine to suit the way I wanted to live. It
came at a price with a further 5 years of study and more exams after the MRCP
and the long years before that.
Journalism too has undergone enormous
change due to the digital revolution.A TV
or radio news reporter is not what I would have wanted. I fancy digital journalism of newspapers and
magazines.A life of a journalist is not
for the faint-hearted. In some countries press freedom depends on the whims of
politicians. Where Human rights are non-existent journalists disappear off the
face of the earth. Those who report from war zones and areas of natural
disasters take enormous risks. The journalists bring to the attention of the
public the problems and the possible solutions to make the world a better
place. Journalists who report on sports or review music and films have a
different lifestyle although the industry is not less cut-throat.So it is not an easier option to medicine but
that would be my first choice.
In the United Kingdom many of those
appearing for the A-levels do not know what they want to do in life. They study
a general subject in the University. Then 3 years down the line decide on their
careers. Even after several years in their chosen career path some find out
they want to change and they do. There are doctors, solicitors, architects and
politicians who have done this and made it a success. Watching a TV program
recently about the Chelsea Flower show there was a lady presenter who qualified
as a hospital doctor and then changed course to become a landscape gardener.
Sometimes it is cathartic to air one’s
feelings if done in the right forum. Honesty is the best medicine!! I am
immensely proud I was given the opportunity to follow my “chosen path” as a
teenager. Then I knew no better. Much to
my surprise, I am still happy, sometimes sublimely so. I don’t feel like a disgruntled doctor as I
have had a most satisfying professional career. I have enjoyed the public
respect of the noble profession. It is wonderful to know how my body works and
the solutions to some of its problems. I also know when nothing much can be
done.Above all when I go to my doctor
he cannot pull the wool over my eyes. I feel enormous pride in my achievements
in medicine. After all it was a career which would not have been even in my
shortlist of future vocations. I only wish I was better informed and better
advised. Perhaps it was my destiny that prevented me from becoming one of the
disappeared journalists during those dark days in Sri Lanka.
As I do the finishing touches to these
notes that old adage flashes across my mind “ the grass is always greener on
the other side of the fence”. Actually, the grass is greenest where it is
watered and cared for.I take the wisdom
of the Buddhist teaching “the way to happiness is to learn to want what you
have and not want what you don't have”.
In summary my choice of medicine as a
career was a mistake. I blame no one else for this. Despite the hardships and
setbacks, I turned it round to make it a success. Be it random chance, destiny
or the will of God, good fortune has smiled on me most of the way.