Beyond medicine: medical artists and humanists

Sigmund Freud, Che Guevara, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oliver Sacks are some of the names that make up the list of characters in history who, in addition to practicing medicine, dedicated themselves to other humanistic fields such as politics or writing. Finding profiles of health professionals who also dedicate their time to other professional activities today is not easy. From very early on, the educational system establishes a thick line between the study of science and letters, separating, sometimes irreconcilably, the knowledge acquired from the different disciplines.

“And this barrier that is imposed is precisely part of the origin of the dehumanization that characterizes today’s medicine,” said Dr. Raúl Contreras, head of the Center for Study and Research in Hepatic and Toxicological Diseases of Hidalgo (CEIHET) in Mexico. and philosopher. “Although I first studied medicine, I always wanted to train in the humanities. My father was a historian and I grew up among books, developing a tremendous love for the humanities. I did not decide on philosophy as my first option because they told me that it was a career without exits”, confessed Dr. Contreras, who after more than a decade as a hepatologist, graduated in philosophy in 2006 and collaborates as a columnist writing political essays for different media.

“Acting has also accompanied me since I was little, since I was 11 years old. When I realized that I was really interested in it, I began to train seriously, but when it came to choosing a career I opted for medicine, which also I liked it and that, as a profession, it offered more stability,” said Dr. Verónica Espiga, a primary care physician in the Emergency Unit of the Hospital Universitario de La Princesa, in Madrid, Spain, and a theater actress. “When you are really passionate about something, you take time even from where there is none. This year, for example, I have not stopped, I have had many functions; one weekend I had a guard and the other a work. But, in the end, it is a matter to get organized with the schedules,” he added.

Knowledge of anesthesia and anatomy to transform bodies

“As I really liked surgery and had knowledge of anatomy and physiology of healing, when a friend suggested that I do piercings, I loved the idea and decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to it as well,” said Dr. María José Montes, a general practitioner who He combines his activity in clinical trials in a private health center and aesthetic drilling. While Dr. Montes attends in her daily workday to patients who participate in oncology studies and protocols for the development of drugs and vaccines for which she is responsible, she has just opened her own drilling studio. “I love the empowering capacity that the transformation of bodies brings, even as a therapy for acceptance and changing self-perception with the aim of making the person feel more comfortable,” highlighted the health worker, for whom “piercing is like carrying perform a small surgery. You have to have the manual dexterity to carry out interventions”, Dr. Montes rejects the way the system has of “teaching us science and the humanities as fragmented fields, when in fact they are two languages ​​that complement each other and go hand in hand,” he said.

“For example, thanks to my knowledge of anesthesia I am less invasive with drilling,” confessed the piercer. During her career practices, she rotated at the Val d’Hebrón University Hospital, in Barcelona, ​​Spain, in the high-risk gynecology and obstetrics service, “a specialty I want to dedicate myself to.”

And it was precisely during his stay in the Catalan hospital that he realized how important the relationship and patient care was. “After the experience I wanted to get involved in the relationship between doctor and patient, and I studied a specialized master’s degree in humanities, ethics and care, because in many aspects it is forgotten that the patient is a person,” said Dr. Montes. She has just finished her doctoral thesis on obstetric violence. “If we start talking about childbirth as a humanized act, it is because we come from its dehumanization,” she clarified.

Dealing with the patient beyond the clinical diagnosis

“Inadequate patient care is one of the main complaints of current health systems. There are doctors who are highly trained and specialized in their scientific fields: in terms of knowledge they are the best, but the treatment with which they treat patients is very poor,” agreed Dr. Contreras. According to the hepatologist and professor at the Hidalgo School of Medicine, “health professionals must try to have much more empathy, analyze the patient’s family, social, and psychological aspects to make decisions at a clinical level that avoid harming other aspects that affect their quality of life.”

“In my bioethics classes I insist to my students the importance of stopping seeing the patient as a problem to be solved and focusing on him as a person to be helped. Because generally the doctor only trains himself in the resolution of a clinical diagnosis, forgetting the social aspect”, declared the hepatologist to whom his humanistic training has served him “above all, to have a comprehensive vision of the patient not only from the perspective of the disease. That is why I always try to apply philosophical anthropology in medical consultations” .

The scientific method in turn has allowed him to separate “the philosophy of quality, based on evidence, reason and logic, from the more esoteric visions and mystical beliefs. Illuminating philosophy with scientific thought is very useful to silence ideologies that can be very harmful. I think that being a doctor makes me a more complete philosopher,” he said.