A Doctor’s Social Diagnosis

Health centers have never been my favorite places to visit- the excruciating smell of methylated spirit, the dire sights of cruel syringes, the cries of the recently maimed, the gripping smell of tablets you could feel on your taste bud and the intimidating cooling system of the physician’s office, such a morbid stuff. All these, combined with the ailing condition of the body, don’t add up to a nice experience before and after egressing the health facility. That was my unfortunate state that Sunday morning (yeah I had to stab church service) but the doctor kind of alleviated the tension to my surprise. I was shocked! *in Falz’s voice*.

After the part, where he scribbled my replies to his questions, he asked where and what I studied. His initial reaction to my course of study was bolt as I could tell he was keen on a conversation and that Logic is a familiar ground to the physician. I pictured him as the 21st Century Galen except that the Roman Physician-cum-Philosopher didn’t seem to have a knack for analyzing social issues. So here I am with a doctor, about to engage in an intellectually stimulating discourse, not slightly related to health of course. Boom-boom-pow moment with a badass dokita! The universe loves me.

He started proceedings by asking if I knew the Philosopher’s role in Nigeria’s socio-political landscape as an invaluable task than any other player of development. Philosopher? How so?

Remembering the only time I’ve ever reflected on the relevance of Logic seem foggy on all scale but speaking with him gave me perspectives. He expressed bitterness at the reflective shallowness of Nigerians who would rather appeal to emotions than reason. We do not ask questions enough and follow them through even when we happen to ask. Questions about policies supposedly made on our behalf by certain individuals grasping the reins of power, questions about constitutionalism and civic rights, questions about liberty and all that circumvent our natural dispositions as a people under a state. The doctor and I landed on a common ground that the Nigerian masses ought to be better off as they are if they come to grips with the fact that all that seem ok is really not ok. A sort of collective effort is required to demand change without marginalizing any set of people reminiscent of the French revolution where the class of fisherman, cobbler, local hair stylist et al acted because they were conscious of the unfavorable social arrangement they were subjected to. But how conscious is the Nigerian mass?

On the topic of the nation’s pitiable educational system, the doctor bemoaned government’s ill funding of the sector as teachers and facilitators are not paid well leaving the door opened for unqualified ones who don’t even get substantial incentives for nurturing leaders of tomorrow. He stressed that the educational malaise is underpinned in our day to day interaction with others which reflects why a teacher wouldn’t converse in English to a doctor. I disputed with him here. Language becomes prioritized especially in an environment where the languages one understands can be spoken and understood by others so why speak English when the doctor can communicate otherwise. I for one think in a situation like this it won’t be out of order if one is preferential in speaking the local language to a health practitioner whether you are a teacher or not. I quite understand his angle though, it could be weird for a doctor on duty to be put in a conversation not laced in English by a teacher off duty (say, not a teacher of language).

He further highlighted three strata of influence; the elite-elites who are in power and call the shots, the decisive-elites who have an unquestionable say over those in power and the elite who are closest to the people with a little force of their own. The elites are the enlightened citizens, not necessarily the academics in as much as they view society with critical lens. The physician placed himself and me in the bottom of the totem as the elite solely charged with educating the populace from our circles on best practices for active citizenry and for making sound personal decisions.

On the health sector the physician commented on the subsisting standards and less effective structure that prompted his sole attendance to 57 patients in a session. He believes the doctor-patient relationship should of necessity transcend complaints and diagnosis. A doctor and a patient could indulge in a conversation off the record about family, politics anything that fosters bond. Here both parties share views and ultimately impact each other. This sort of echos the Cartesian dualism about human beings as we are not just composed of a corporeal entity, that there is an immaterial entity that is the superordinate one, the soul.

My presence was clearly a timely respite for the nameless doctor and I hope to meet up some day.


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