Choosing an appropriate doctor can be a ticklish exercise, particularly if you are new to the place and do not have reliable contacts to help you out. Every nook and corner of our vast nation is lavishly populated with practitioners of all conceivable kinds of ‘pathies’ – allopathy, homeopathy, unani, kaviraji, ayurvedic, naturopathy (fyi, it’s actually different from and lot less exciting than naturalism – see pic for further enlightenment), magnetic therapy, spiritual therapy, yoga, reiki, acupuncture, gem therapy, touch therapy, laughter therapy, hydrotherapy, herbal therapy, urine therapy (both own and the holy cow’s), naadi therapy, magic, mantras, jhaad phook, Jholi Baba’s holy bhasmas, home made potions, aunty’s cures, and geeky remedies of all shades and hues! Interestingly enough, each therapist is full of beans when it comes to claiming a cure for anything and everything from itching armpits to Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. In such a knotty situation, the following general guidelines may be of help in choosing an appropriate doctor. I have chosen to focus only on the allopathic form of therapy as I consider my understanding of all other ‘pathies’ to be rather cursive!
A GP or a General Practitioner (can either be an experienced MBBS or MD doctor) is the veritable ‘Jack of all trades’ in the medical profession. He is supposed to possess a very good ‘general’ idea about the general signs, symptoms and cures of a fairly large number of general disorders. So if you have any of the common doughs like fever, diarrhoea, nausea, aches & pains, cold, cough, allergy, acidity, sore throat, ticks and the like, just land on the neighbourhood GP’s clinic (make sure of the above qualifications to ensure that a quack is not masquerading as a GP). If you are visiting a sarkaari hospital, look out for the MD (General Medicine) OPD. Having had you in his grasp once, the GP will happily go about with his routine general check up. He will endeavour to size you and your pocket up first, and then have a measure of your BP and the number of your heartthrobs…I mean….the rate at which your heart ‘throbs’ in a minute….or in other words, your pulse rate. He’ll then do the following in rapid succession – tickle your guts to see if you have an enlarged spleen, dive into your throat with a torch to tinker with your tonsils, poke your ribcage with his stethoscope to hear the melodies maladies emanating from your lungs, and so on. He will intersperse his evaluation with a sprinkling of seemingly inane enquiries like when was the last time your left shoulder ached, what was the colour of your shit like, when you burp, do you fart too, what happened first – the toothache or the headache etc. etc. Answer all his questions truthfully; he is only trying to sort out the jigsaw puzzle of your troubles. He may either write you a prescription straightaway, or ask you to get some tests done. Suffice it to say that a good GP should be able to take care of all your routine health problems.
Now the question arises – if the GP is good enough, what are the specialists and super-specialists for? Generally speaking, the specialists are those lettered pedants of the medical profession who have an MD or MS qualification in addition to the bachelor’s degree in medi-sin. Most surgical specialities are outside the purview of the GP. Surgical specialists include
General Surgeons (cap-mask weilding sawbones who gleefully draw their scalpels at the drop of a hat)
Gynaecologists (guy-nakko-logists; those who…well…need I add any ornate descriptions in their sublime honour?)
Orthopaedicians (specialists of bone disorders and fractures who literally go hammer and tongs at their job, or in other words, who make a living out of making a bonsai of your bones)
Otorhinolaryngologists (auto-rhino-larrinjo-logists) – i.e. ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialists (proficient in the art of tweaking your tunes therapeutically) and
Ophthalmologists (of-thal-mo-logists) – or the Eye specialists (those pretty docs who insist upon revising your knowledge of the alphabet).
The medical (MD) specialists include –
Physicians – typical sombre looking bespectacled whitecoated blackbooted stethoscope dangling bookwormish gentleman seen roaming the corridors of infirmaries.
Paediatricians (child specialists – who always seem quite eager to explain even the tiniest of things in vivid detail to all those pretty moms with gaping mouths and ‘Oh! Is that so? I didn’t know’ look in their eyes)
Psychiatrists (sigh-kia-trists) or mental docs (the kind you see in movies giving electric shocks to hapless heroines – in actuality, it is a refined science on which psychotherapy and counselling is based)
Dermatologists (skin specialists who keep on writing creams, tubes and lotions by the dozens for those obstinate pimples adorning your faces)
Pulmonologists (lung fung specialists)
Anaesthetists (as opposed to aesthetics – those who knock the patients out before any surgery and kickstart them afterwards), and
Radiologists (docs with X rays vision – beware, they’d know if you are wearing an old yellow-stained underwear with air-conditioning vents at strategic spots ).
Pathologists and Microbiologists play (all work and no play, rather) an important role in arriving at a diagnosis; they may not however, see patients directly. Then there are Anatomists, Biochemics, Pharmacologists, Physiologists, Community Medicine docs – all are MD specialists but they do not treat patients. Their work is more of refined meshugaas teaching and research oriented.
Finally, the superspecialists. These are the blokes who renounce all worldly pleasures in the pursuit of clinical excellance and end up on the wrong side of forty with nothing in hand (no birds, no nest, no moolah…no nothing)except another frightfully specialised qualification (DM or M.Ch) in a specific subject. They are, from the medical side –
Cardiologists (heart specialists, dil ka daktar, who spend one week in the Alps every month – this, unfortunately, compensates for only half of the losses incurred in earlier life)
Nephrologists (kidney specialists, who frequently tour Europe and America)
Endocrinologists (diabetes/thyroid/obesity specialists who look forward to touring Thigh Thailand and Bangkok)
Gastroenterologists (liver & abdominal disease specialists, who find solace among the grapevines in Germany and France)
Oncologists (cancer specialists, South African safari lovers)
Neurologists (paralysis specialists – who never find the time to tour anywhere) and
Neonatologists (who take care of critically ill newborns between sojourns to the Middle East and Asia pacific regions).
From the surgical side, there are the Cardiac (heart) surgeons
Urologists (who deal with kidney operations, urinary stone removal etc.)
Gastrointestinal surgeons (who sort out screwed abdomens)
Paediatric surgeons (who operate on newborns)
Neurosurgeons (who open up the brain, shout much upon finding a hell lot of burnt out wirings, and then zip up the skull as if nothing has happened)
Plastic Surgeons (surgeons dealing with buttocks botox, liposuction, nose jobs, breast implants, thigh shaping, etc), and
Onco (cancer) surgeons.
Most surgeons go only as far upto Tirupati or Shirdi in their vacations (I hope you see the association). Only the plastic surgeons travel abroad.
Take your pick.
Rofl Indian’s Law: An apple a day, keeps the doctor away. But only if you aim it well enough.