A Day In The Life Of An Oncologist
I had the amazing opportunity over my summer break to shadow an oncologist for a week. Oncology has been one of my options that I had been longing to gain exposure to and I am interested in specialising in this area.
Dr. Doris Chow is a resident neuro-oncologist consultant that I got to shadow with during my attachment time in Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital. She specialises specifically on brain tumours that are commonly found in children. I also got to see a variation of different types of cancers on different patients which are slightly more common such as breast cancer, metastatic melanoma, and lung cancer. She spent some time explaining to me about these types of cancer and the treatments available for cancer patients.
I also had the chance the see a pigstail insertion procedure. This procedure is to drain out ascites (excess fluid in the abdominal cavity) in patients to relieve bloating of the stomach. I also got to see how a linear accelerator was prepped for a scanning of the patient.
Dr. Doris was kind enough to even teach me the basics of how to use a software radiophysisists use to ‘draw’ on the patients CT/ MRI scan to prepare the machine for radiating different frequencies of radiation to the different parts of the surrounding tumour and the tumour itself. She also taught me how to distinguish between different mesectomy scars and how to identify the after effects of the skin following radiotherapy.
The most important thing I’ve learnt throughout this experience was how Dr. Doris was able to communicate and consult – building a special trust with a patient, especially with a life threatening disease. The relationship between the doctor and patient is a huge part of being a doctor. The patient is always trusting you with their lives (Literally).
I was able to have the pleasure to ask Dr. Doris a couple of questions and advice based on her passion as an oncologist and here is what she had to say:
Q: “What would be your advice on us medical students trying to survive school?”
A: “ The stress you’re dealing with now is not everything. Don’t let it take up your entire life and ruin your university experience. Especially, don’t get burnout and do not try to pull “all nighters” every day. Face the fact that you aren’t able to learn everything in your time at medical school. We are all still learning constantly as doctors. The medical industry and drug development world is always changing. Nothing is certain. New diseases and drugs are being discovered over the years. Definitely learn your anatomy, biochemistry and physiology. Those are very important to understand. Enjoy your student life! Build good friendships with friends that will have your back.”
“No one is going to care if you got your degree in 5 or 7 years, the only thing that matters is how good of a doctor you become. How passionate you are towards your work and patients.”
Q: “What advice would you give students who are wanting to get into medicine?”
A: “Make sure you have the passion for science. Know what you are getting into but at the end of the day, be able to understand that with challenges comes failure and that is perfectly normal. Make your goals clear to yourself.”
Q: “What is the only thing you learnt as an oncologist?”
A: “Life is temporary and unexpected. Cancer is a disease that is extremely unpredictable and can turn your life upside down. You can be “cured” from it but next thing you know, it makes it way back. Your priorities start changing and it can be scary to be in the patient’s shoes, but we as doctors make it our goal to give them the best possible care and treatment available. Communication and bedside manner are the aspects patients really care about.”
“Being a doctor is so much more than just the knowledge you earn throughout medical school.”
Written by Dawn Kaur
DIFC Ambassador – Malaysia
Now studying Medicine at Royal College of Surgeons Ireland
Dawn’s journey started with the International Foundation Year – Health Science at DIFC