I’m missing my mentors

Many years ago, when I was a young, enthusiastic, had only had chlamydia a few times, and before I had become emasculated by the unbearable ennui of general practice and the realisation that we are de facto the door mats of the medical world, I enrolled in a one-year diploma in palliative medicine at Cardiff University.

This entailed three residential weekends, where among all the usual crowd of palliative care do-gooders, to my great good fortune I met the magnificent Dr David Lockie of Tigh na Bruaigh.

I never quite established the breadth of David’s medical knowledge, but boy did he know a lot about life. At least I think he did, because his rich Scottish brogue could make even the most asinine comment seem full of gravitas.

This to me was real post-graduate education, what having a mentor was all about.

David was a particular expert on malt whiskey, and we would sit at the hotel bar late into the night as he instructed me in the nuances and subtleties of the genre.

‘Where were you when I was a junior doctor?’ I would lament, after barfing for the third time.

He would fix me with a steely gaze; ‘It’s your round again, laddie.’

David was a true role-model and since then I have had a deep regard for my Scottish colleagues, augmented many times since by Ian McKee, Alec Logan, Des Spence and Somerled Ferguson and other unforgettable characters. Somerled once invited me to Inverness to give a talk.

On arrival, he whisked me off to Bannockburn and led me round the battlefield, enthusiastically pointing out the dispositions of the troops. At one stage he was standing about 50 yards away. ‘Run towards me,’ he shouted.

I did so, stubborn roots confounding every step.

‘You can’t run through this bloody heather,’ I complained.

‘Aye,’ he said softly, a faraway expression in his eyes, ‘and that’s why the Scots lost.’

Which makes it doubly painful for me to read in GP recently that over half of Scottish GPs offer homoeopathic remedies.

Even more remarkable was the response of a GP prescribing sub-committee member. He might have said: ‘This is ridiculous, we are colluding in a massive confidence trick against the gullible and lending respectability to a dung heap of superstitious garbage,’ or words to that effect.

Instead he said: ‘I would caution against GPs who have no training prescribing homoeopathic drugs.’ This implies that if you have training in prescribing bottles of water it’s quite alright then.

I hear a postgrad diploma approaching. 

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.
Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com

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