Liam Farrell: My fond memories of the Journal Club

If I miss anything about the ritual humiliations of being a junior doctor (apart from the rampant promiscuity, which became quite onerous after a while, but some medical conventions simply must be observed), it's the Journal Club.

Was anything ever so restful? It was just the thing for a whey-faced, exhausted junior; grab a coffee, sit at the back and be lulled to sleep by the stumbling presentation of the unfortunate (and usually unwilling) presenter.

So Plod's appearance at the Journal Club drew a big crowd, all in search of a quick nap.

Plod originally acquired his nickname because of his initials, but in what was an incredible cosmic accident, or because he felt compelled to grow into the role, 'Plod' summed him up very neatly.

He was slow, yet dull, and spoke in a soporific monotone. But as Soren Kierkegaard observed: 'What labels me, negates me,' and Plod was ready to confound our expectations.

He stood up at the front and, ignoring the gentle sounds of snoring (the junior residence wasn't exactly the Algonquin Round Table) began to draw an exquisitely detailed diagram of the inner ear. Michelangelo would have been less perfectionist redeeming David from his marble tomb.

Plod had been given 30 minutes, but after 20, we were only halfway through the cochlear and the postgrad tutor was becoming agitated.

The crowd, roused from its slumber, looked on in fascination; could he finish the 30 minutes without speaking a word? And as the time-limit ticked past, Plod ended with a rebellious smile. 'Voila,' he said, 'the inner ear.'

Plod's demonstration was a metaphor for a deeper truth - the danger of labels. A diagnosis minimises patients; even the term 'patient' does many-faceted individuals an injustice.

The postgrad tutor was most disgruntled, but, as is mandatory, he was just a jumped-up, overly ambitious registrar, whom we all despised and made fun of - behind his back, of course. Some medical conventions simply must be observed.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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