Director of Trauma offers future doctors some advice

Tuesday 7 August, 2012

Dr Tony JosephFuture doctors should always put patients first, treating them as though they were members of their own families, one of Australia’s medical pioneers, Dr Tony Joseph, told medical students at Warrane’s Medicine Faculty dinner on Tuesday 24 July, 2012. Tony Joseph is the Director of Trauma at the Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH), Chairman of the hospital’s Medical Staff Council, and is Clinical Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine at The University of Sydney.

Dr Joseph, who helped to develop emergency department ultrasound in Australasia, said that doctors should always talk to patients and colleagues honestly and frankly at all times, but with compassion.

“Everyone wants to hear the truth, even if it is painful,” he said.

In a wide-ranging address, Dr Joseph shared his views on everything from the practice of medicine to doctors’ personal lives and wellbeing. His suggestions included:

  • Sometimes for doctors doing nothing is better than doing something and may be harder to do.
  • Doctors should get involved in their hospital, their specialty College, their community and in politics, if necessary, and in the Australian Medical Association - the largest medical representative body in Australia. “You only get one bite at this,” he said, “and it is always later than you think.”
  • Because dying is a normal part of life and some people do it earlier, doctors should “always try to ensure people have a good death with minimal suffering”: “Tell people as much as they want to know but always mention the ‘d’ word especially when talking to the relatives of someone who has died.”
  • Have interests outside of medicine. Exercise, keep your weight down, eat and drink moderately, don’t smoke and be a good example to your patients of healthy physical and mental well-being.

On the topic of personal health, Dr Joseph said it was important to remember you have to be active even when you retire. “So cultivate interests - for example play golf, tennis, walk, jog, talk to your family, read widely, especially history, because it helps you understand people’s motivation. It is even interesting and has a habit of repeating itself.

“Also remember to read the classics as those writers have interesting minds and it is worth getting a piece of them.”

Dr Joseph suggested that future doctors also try to play a musical instrument “as it is good for your brain and quite relaxing”.

He urged the students to stay in touch with their friends - especially with their university friends - “as they understand you better than you think even though you may have grown into a bit of a grouch”.

He concluded with some advice about the importance of personal relationships: “Tell your loved ones often that you love them and follow through with some action to demonstrate this – life is shorter than you think?”

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