Memoirs of a Medical Student (5)


Dr. Fenton

Dr. Fenton might be harsh in his rebuke and criticisms but the truth is, his comments were usually  so colourful you can’t help but laugh out loud. Like when he kept telling us that our answers to his questions were a lot of coproemesis (vomiting faecal matter); we just couldn’t help laughing. As far as teachers go in medical school, he was one of the more tolerable ones. He had a very bad day as a surgeon when we  first watched him and he said this was C’s fault because he had asked her questions and when she failed to answer him he had jokingly insulted her. His theory was that she was making his tools fall from his hands, because she was angry with him and at one time even cut off the power supply so he could not see what he was doing, made the sutures to break into two and made him generally clumsy. The attending stated that he had to appeal to C’s supernatural powers and C light-heartedly said she would not be appeased until each and every student in the unit was given a plate of food (fried rice). The good doctor did not shout at her for her impertinence or send her away but laughed along with the rest of us at her bold statement. After the surgery while we were waiting for the patient to recover from the anaesthesia, he promptly picked on C again. It was clear he could be pretty brutal but even with his brutality he still made you laugh. Clinic days were a dread with him especially at the beginning because he could  choose to either send us out or tear us into pieces with his  insults. The trick was to never take it personally and to see the humour in it.  We could never take ourselves too seriously. That was the only way to survive.  It could be nerve racking because he was really unpredictable and any little thing could set him off. There was a ward round we had that he really gave it to B, a classmate of ours after he presented a patient. The presentation was not so good alright, but the man made it seem like it was a thousand times more horrible than it was. We never forgot that session and neither did B. After staying for a few hours in the clinic with him on clinic days, we were able to relax and laugh freely and even banter with him. But he was one of the people who taught us that having a thick skin in medical school was not an optional requirement.

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