For the past ten years, we have had the pleasure of serving international medical graduates from every corner of the world. Part of what makes our job so rewarding and, frequently, so challenging is the diverse array of cultures, values, and worldviews that we deal with on a daily basis.
As we ease the career transitions of hopeful IMGs, we are also tasked with the responsibility of acculturation: to prepare you for the cultural differences that you and your loved ones are preparing to engage with. However, rather than dwell on perceived differences between world cultures, it’s a better starting to point to come to an agreement about the ideas that we share in common—especially as it relates to practicing medicine.
What Makes a Good Doctor?
This is the kind of question that you could ask as an ice breaker for a class of incoming medical students or as opening for a hastily prepared speech to your colleagues. The answer depends on who you’re asking—the patient? A nurse? An attending? An internist? A pediatrician? A cardiologist?
Every party involved in healthcare has a different idea of what makes a good doctor, and every specialty demands certain qualities and abilities that others may not. However, there is one quality that all good physicians must inarguably possess:
A good doctor shows sound judgement.
To Do No Harm
Regardless of the specialty or care environment, the daily tasks and decisions that any kind of physician makes have direct consequences for the physical and emotional wellbeing of their patients—for people’s lives. Every time we step into a doctor’s office we trust them primum nil nocere: “first, to do no harm.” That expectation naturally relies on a professional with sound judgement, and judgement depends on agency—on the freedom to make your own choices.
Letting Our Loved Ones Grow
It’s impossible for an individual to develop the kind of judgement that’s necessary to practice medicine without having the space to learn and grow on their own. Unfortunately, with the best intentions possible, the family members of many of our clients often lose sight of this. It’s a terrifying idea to leave your loved one to their own devices in a culture with which you have no familiarity, that can oftentimes seem hostile, and that seems to present direct threats to someone you love. It feels like it’s your responsibility to be there to shield them and to watch over them.
But there comes a point in your cherished one’s life where your love must be tempered with trust and faith.
If they are to grow into the kind of person who others trust with their wellbeing, they must be capable of taking care of their own.
It is in placing that faith in their hands that you do your part to help them grow as people and take one step closer to the vision of their fruitful future.
Overton, R., & Dunleavy, D. (2017). The AAMC standardized video interview. [Webinar]. Retrieved from http://www.ecfmg.org/echo/webinars-may-2017.html.