“Doctors” are fakes—they don’t have a doctorate!

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photo (1)My name is Joan Salah.  I am a local family doctor and, when I flatter myself, I call myself a woman in science.  I grew up in the tiny village of Iona, the second of 5 children.  My mother was a single parent hippie artist from Halifax, so I always felt like a bit of an outsider there.  In high school, I decided to be a “Doctor”.  After all, I had been telling everyone far and wide how very smart I was and I figured that was the best way to prove it.  Off I went to Mount Allison to do Biochemistry and ultimately to go to medical school.  I knew nothing about medicine or what my ultimate career might look like; I was armed only with a general knowledge of what it might take to get accepted.  Very quickly all my plans got turned upside down.  As it turned out, I loved Chemistry.  I was good at it; I loved the research, the collegial environment and the small university experience.  There I discovered that “Doctors” are fakes—they don’t have a doctorate!  Everyone in a University knows that true intellectuals have PhDs, so off I went in search of one for myself.   I applied to Dalhousie, got my NSERC funding and my future was set in motion.  I was bothered, however, by a niggling curiosity:  I had said I would get into Medical School, could I? So, I applied.  I only applied to Dalhousie, assuming I would not get in anyway.  When I did get in, I thought I shouldn’t waste the opportunity.  Well, what an enormous mistake.  In my first 2 years I was miserable.  Compared to my beloved chemistry lab, medicine was a mess.  Nothing was controlled, very little was well known and I felt like all I could do was memorize great and growing lists of stuff.  In my undergrad, however mistakenly, there were times that I felt like I really knew something well.  I never felt this way in Medicine.  In my second year, I wanted to quit, but realized I was so far in debt that quitting was no longer financially feasible.  Finally, in 3rd year we were launched on the poor unsuspecting patients of Halifax and, thankfully, I remembered that I really do like people and medicine is really all about people.  From there, slowly, medicine became science to me.  I learned again to ask thoughtful questions, to examine and to pay attention.  I did tests, tried to prove theories and in the end tried to formulate an answer and consider management.  As it turns out, my job now is not so different as I imagined my life as a chemistry professor.  I teach, I participate in the (often fascinating) lives of my patients and not a day goes by that I don’t experience something new.

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