Ignorance Isn't Bliss
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I absolutely LOVE emergency medicine. To anyone who’s ever spoken to me for more than 3 minutes, this is fairly apparent. So many features of it draw me in: it’s thought-provoking, exciting, general and it’s the only place in the hospital where you can get away with running through the corridors. Since second year, emergency med has been my baby and something that I take pleasure in revising.
Conversely, there’s dermatology. 
Not to offend any budding dermatologists reading this, but I find your preferred speciality painful. I honestly think I’d rather use a cactus as a suppository than revise the different nerve cells in the skin. To me, there is little difference between reviewing histology slides and soft-core masochism (other than the masochism bringing some people pleasure). These are values I’ve carried firmly with me throughout medical school; however, after spending a week in dermatology, I’m starting to question my stance. 
Before my placement this week, my dermatology knowledge was shockingly poor. But after spending a week with experts in the field, I’ve realised that it’s actually even worse. For the past three years, I’ve avoided derm like the plague and now it’s come round to shoot me in the foot. Despite my incompetence, the doctors I was with were really supportive and actually helped me learn quite a lot. I’m far more confident when examining skin lesions and can understand the different types of melanoma more clearly now. Dare I say it, I find it…interesting?
So then, why the change? 
It actually took me a fair amount of reflection to realise why I now don't mind it so much, but now I realise – I like it because I understand it. The junior doctors explained dermatology to me in a way that made me comprehend disease profiles and histology. I never liked it before because I never understood it, and I never understood it because I didn’t enjoy learning about it. I created a cycle which I’ve only recently realised I had even developed, all because I didn’t want to do the grunt work in my pre-clinical years. 
While it is frustrating that I have 3 years worth of dermatology to catch up on, I’m glad that it’s led me to realise that there are some areas of medicine that I avoid out of laziness. Tied in with that, I'm now more aware of what I don’t know, so I can work around that to fill in the gaps. Avoiding areas of medicine that I struggle with is a character trait which I have to get rid of, if I ever want to be a great doctor. Fear of the unknown and not acknowledging your own ignorance is destruction and does nothing to address the issue at hand. And while it’s created a lot more work for me now, it’ll hopefully mean that in the future I won’t make a fatal mistake. For example, misdiagnosing a melanoma for a mole.


Originally published 22 November 2020 , updated 24/11/2020

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