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The art of medicine

Ranjana Srivastava
Oncologist, award-winning author and columnist Ranjana Srivastava.

Supplied: Monash University

Ranjana Srivastava wanted to be a certain kind of doctor. Sure, she wanted to be an oncologist (and she is). But she wanted to be a doctor known for her humanity as well as her medical skills.

Ranjana painstakingly and compassionately details the journeys of her patients in her books and her widely-read column in The Guardian. And we were fortunate to chat with her about what being a doctor means to her, and how her education helped to light a fire on the possibilities of a path less travelled.

I had a truly global upbringing. I was born in Canberra, Australia, but I grew up in India and spent most of my primary school years there. We then lived in the United Kingdom, and spent my high school years in the United States. I came back to Australia to study Medicine at Monash.

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Ranjana Srivastava on what truly matters in the field of medicine. Supplied: Monash University

After six years of studying Medicine, I did a year of internship, where I was a clinical doctor under supervision. It was a tremendous year for me, and one of great growth.

While on ‘rotation’ I was greatly influenced by an oncologist I met, who was so revered by his patients, the hospital staff and his students, and who worked tirelessly for the benefit of his patients. I thought that that was the sort of doctor I wanted to be.

These are the things our patients remember us for. I think if you ask anyone who has ever been a patient what they remember most of all is the humanity showed to them by their healthcare providers.

If I look back at my own career, Monash not only ensured I became a sound doctor, but exposed me to a wealth of different types of clinicians and researchers and I began thinking of what I could do differently. I believe an important role of a university is to encourage students who may be unconventional.

To encourage them to look beyond what they are studying and try to light a fire for them. The road less travelled is one they can and should explore in their own career.

This material was produced by Monash University.