is so much to sort out, so we can throw out last year’s debris and usher
in 2007 with clarity.
clutter of the mind is worse than a drawer with its incoherent
jumble—assorted safety pins, broken beads, unsharpened pencils, rusted
scissors, a broken earring, a tender tiny car, a faded letter in pencil,
photographs, a moth-eaten childhood book and on and on.
useless and precious. It’s the sum of who we are. The drawer, like our
individual minds, is in a home, belongs to a family who lives in a
community in a country, forms part of the world. We are interwoven.
South African oncologist here in Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Dr Charles
Hesdorffer, was able to help me sort through our current technology and
trashy bling-obsessed minds.
Hesdorffer represents medicine in an almost forgotten context, of
humanity, of a time of passionately wanting to do your bit in the world,
when it wasn’t just about the money.
is the first of a two-part interview with Dr Hesdorffer.
grew up in South Africa. As a child, I loved the concept of making people
better. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to make a plastic heart and
would take clay and make hearts.
was before heart transplants came along. I wasn’t the brightest kid on
the block. I was of average intelligence, but a hard worker.
is a misconception that doctors are the brightest because medical schools
are hard to get into.
great doctor is of average intelligence, hard-working, pays attention to
detail, but compassionate and applies experience and science to the
patient and not to the generic disease.
requires interest, dedication and compassion. Compassion and empathy is
not something everyone is born with, or will learn.
it is the heart and soul of medicine.
was an intern in Johannesburg under a Dr Bothwell, who is the most
incredible person I could have had as an example of how to be a doctor.
combined the really intellectual side of medicine with the compassion.
so rare. He looked after leukemia patients.
turned me to oncology and cancer research and away from surgery was the
way Dr Bothwell spoke and listened to patients.
gave them so much hope, and made them almost happy that they had leukemia
because it meant interacting with him.
you want to help people, to be a healer, you can’t switch off. You have
to be on 24 hours a day. You can’t let the compassion drop.
has his or her own limit. You shouldn’t take on more than you can help.
That’s the difference between a commercial private medical institution
and a state-supported institution like Johns Hopkins.
you can be the healer, as there are so many colleagues, juniors, interns
and nurses to support you. You have the opportunity to take the science
and apply it to the patient.
private hospitals, it’s about cramming patients, where the object is
money and healing goes out of the window.
question is how you spread the wonders of billions of dollars worth of
American research? Hopkins runs HIV/Aids programmes in Uganda, but only
thousands are helped.
do you bring it to the millions in developing countries?
the major problem. It requires a change in the attitude of world leaders,
pharmaceutical companies, industry, to believe universal health care and
education are the only two important things in the world that will bring
prosperity to everybody.”