University of Otago lecturers Dr Hamish Wilson (left) and
Dr Wayne Cunningham say being a doctor is much more than
simply knowing biomedical facts. Photo by Gregor
After decades of experience as GPs, two Otago doctors
have written the book they would have liked to read when they
started in the profession.
Dr Hamish Wilson and Dr Wayne Cunningham argue in Being a
Doctor: Understanding Medical Practice that being a
doctor is much more than simply knowing biomedical facts and
having good clinical skills.
The pair, who both split their time between practising as GPs
and teaching as senior lecturers at the University of Otago's
department of general practice, wrote the book based on
decades of experience as teachers and doctors.
Dr Cunningham said the book, published earlier this year,
explored issues seldom taught in medical school.
''The traditional focus of medicine has been on the teaching
and practice of biomedicine - the science of medicine, I
suppose you could call it - whereas in fact to care for
people ... also requires you to attend to the relationship
with the patient,'' he said.
Having a deeper understanding of a patient allowed doctors to
help people who did not have curable diseases.
''So ... you can still be useful for that patient even though
you might not be able to fix the biological disease.''
Dr Wilson said having too much focus on curing disease could
result in the patient being overlooked.
''Biomedicine has become so powerfully effective over the
last 50 or so years that we have tended to neglect the person
of the patient and, at times, we forget to hear their story
or to engage with them as unique individual persons who may
be struggling in some way, even suffering at times.''
The book also looked at the importance of doctors looking
after themselves in what could be a stressful work
This included ''the basics'' like getting enough sleep,
eating well and taking regular holidays and also setting time
aside to reflect on work difficulties.
It was hoped the book would help doctors realise they were
not alone in having troubles and that everyone made mistakes.
''It is perhaps the book that we would have liked to have
read when we first started out in our own practices, as it
explains how we can translate our medical knowledge and
skills into day-to-day work.''
The pair had been ''thrilled'' with the response to the book
and were now hoping to find a publisher in England.