Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doctor, Doctor

I was driving my daughter to the doctor's office to get her a flu shot. At the time, she was five years old. When you are traveling with a five year old, you have to be prepared for a barrage of questions. On all things, that exist in the world. Sometimes, I think that the Gestapo would have done so much better with their interrogations if they had a five year old on their payroll. 

"Why are we going to the doctor?" She asked. "To get you a flu shot so you don't get sick this season". I said. "But, aren't you a doctor? They put Doctor in front of your name in the letters they send you. Why are we going to another doctor then?"  I said, "Well, I am not that kind of a doctor. One that treats people."

"Who do you treat then?"  "I treat machines. I am an engineer, who became a doctor. Well, sort of."

"Then, you are not really a real doctor, are you?"

That hurt. All those years pursuing that Ph.D., and all those caustic remarks from the people who reviewed my research work. Those didn't hurt as much as this one. Coming from my own five year old. But after a while, you get used to it. The fact that although you are a doctor, you are not really a doctor.

Like this incident that happened at the airport some time ago. There was a long line of passengers at the boarding gate. A pregnant lady, who looked very pregnant, was getting some help with boarding. The airline called the names of a couple of doctors on that flight. Dr. Smith, Dr. Babu, please report to the counter. Dr. Smith, in front of me, was a real doctor. I overheard him agreeing to help in case they needed any help with the pregnant lady. I was next in line. Before the lady could say a thing, I put on my biggest smile and said, "I am not a medical doctor. But I can help if you need someone to analyze the turbulence in your aircraft."

"Thank you Sir, we have the help we need." The professional smile, and the quick dismissal. Ah, a lifesaver.

A typical medical degree in the United States requires four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school and four years of residency. A typical Ph.D. in engineering takes comparable amounts of time. And, if they have their Christiaan Baarnards, we have our Frank Whittles. So, as you can see, we are not really the intellectually inferior beings that we are made out to be. Don't listen to any five year olds that might tell you otherwise.

I was at this party where a few doctors were present. Real ones. I was introduced to a particular one. Dr. Singh, meet Dr. Babu. "Dr. Babu, it is a pleasure meeting you. What kind of a doctor are you?" This time, it was armistice before the first salvo. "Well, Dr. Singh, I am not really a real doctor. I just have a Ph.D."

"No, don't say that. I always wanted to get a Ph.D. I was just not a big intellectual. I think the brightest people get the Ph.Ds. We just fix people. You fix the philosophy. The philosophy of knowledge." Dr. Singh went on and on. In the few minutes I talked to him, I felt as if I was on cloud nine. All that inferiority complex was gone. I was the best of the best. Of the best, in the world. No wait, the universe.

Dr. Singh disappeared in the crowd after a while. I was feeling guilty for not having asked him anything about himself. I was such a conceited person. My friend, the host walked by. "I saw you talking to Dr. Singh. Did you enjoy the chat?"

"He is the best. Loved every minute of the conversation."

"He better be. He charges three hundred dollars an hour for psychotherapy. He is the best shrink in the state. They say, if you have lost an eye, an arm and a leg, a session with him, and you will be ready to run the Boston marathon. He is the best doctor there is." Yes, I noticed.


  1. Well....learnt some more about you.....good one! :-)

  2. A diplomatic post; no clear conclusions. I'll over-rate the 'being a philosophical doctor' (just because I am on my way to becoming one)

  3. When you do become one, you will realize that the real doctors are indeed very real, and way better than the rest of us. You are right that a Ph.D. is highly overrated.

    It's interesting, I once knew someone with basic education who could fix anything. People used to call him doc. And, I would call him a better doc than me any day. Cheers!

  4. Let's see if I do share that idea of doctors (real) being better than philosophical doctors, if and when I do become one.

  5. Nice one!! :)
    Thank you for your comments. I will add your blog to my reading list!

  6. Dear Saee: Thanks for visiting! Good luck with your Ph.D. defense. And, don't forget to make the backups :-)