It was not how I envisioned my internship to end - abruptly with no joyous celebrations. I concluded internship with what I regarded to be an endearing reminder about being a doctor.


My grandmother back home overseas was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma few years ago whilst I was in medical school, of which I could not gain much medical insight of yet. Nevertheless, she was very proud of her doctor grandson working overseas, a main reason she also accepted for seldom visiting her.


Fast forward to internship, I have since gained valuable insight and experience in managing medically and socially complex patients (and their families) with cancers. However, work was work, and I could leave the hospital with a peace of mind knowing that I have done my jobs. I must admit facing such troubled patients everyday was very draining, with the potential for de-sensitization. Could I have forgotten empathy and compassion?


It was also difficult watching my grandmother’s health decline through online updates from my mother, but there was nothing I could do except to diligently care for my patients back at work. However, I counted myself lucky having the opportunity to fly back home to visit her two months before she passed – very weakened and cachectic then, but still making the effort to get out of bed elatedly to see her doctor grandson from overseas again. My mother watched, endearingly but heartbreakingly, as I tried to capture (what I had the gut feeling of) my last moments with my grandmother. Indeed, it was the last I saw her – effortful in making her way to the front door with her four-wheel-frame to bid me goodbye.


Alas, I received the news in the last week of internship. What meant to be a celebratory week resulted in taking compassionate leave to attend her wake back home. It was then I reflected – was I a good enough doctor to my patients, as to the best care I hoped my grandmother received towards the end of her life?


From here on, I can only take this opportunity to remind myself of the importance of empathy and compassion in doctoring - an endearing reminder at the end of my internship. Values of which patients and families I know would appreciate; and will continue to make my grandmother proud by inculcating them in the provision of care to my future patients and families.


Dr. Bing Jian Chang