Sunday, July 5, 2009

What the heck should I do?

It has been a nice, relaxed Sunday so far, and I am now blogging while listening to Jason Mraz's amazing cd. The easy thing to do would be to write about random things, bitch about work, or show you some glimpses of Mytilene and the amazing places that I am discovering day by day. But the question remains, and something tells me I shouldn't avoid it any more - what the heck should I do?

But before I present you with the dilemma, I should first explain why I am in Mytilene and what brought me here.

It has been a hard winter for me, as you may have already realised here. Upon graduating, I wrote my name on the NOTORIOUS waiting list, in order to start a residency some day. That means that I have chosen a medical specialty, and for five years I will work in my hospital of choice as a trainee (or a slave - it depends on how you choose to see it!) . After that, I will be a licensed *whatever-ist* and I will be free to either open up my own practice, or continue to work as an attending doctor in a hospital (and torture other poor interns in turn!)

The specialty I chose was Pathology.

Now, my dear readers, I know this choice might come as a shock. After all, I may seem weird at times, but THAT weird? Well... to be honest... yes.

But how did I transform from this

to this?

Don't get me wrong, I actually love people. Alive and kicking, breathing, warm people, who have all their organs in place. But discovering what went wrong with some patients, first-hand, while treating them with the utmost respect and responsibility, also fascinates me. And this specialty doesn't have to do with the deceased only. Pathologists also get to examine biopsies (from suspicious masses, for example) and determine if they are malignant or benign, agressive or not, so that the fellow oncologists will know what course to follow. Unlike other specialties, which involve a lot of speculation, in Pathology, the truth is out there, in front of you. You just have to use your eyes and your hands to see it.

But my choice of specialty was not based on the subject only. First of all, there was minimal waiting time, in order to start - 1 1/2 year, while for Endocrinology, for example, 10 years were necessary. And while I may have Greek parents that are willing to support me for as long as it is necessary, I also know that I need to rely on myself at some point. Furthermore, as a Pathologist, I will have flexible working hours. And while work itself does not scare me, the thought of not having a family, because I will be too busy to be there for them, really gives me the creeps.

So... a Pathologist. Starting spring 2010. But until then, what?

Nothing - I thought as I was slowly sinking in misery. And suddenly, things started to look up. A job opportunity in Mytilene came, and I took it.

But what is this job?

Well, in Greece, there are hospitals in big towns, but in small villages, there are public practices, staffed with either already licensed general practitioners (the big ones), or medical graduates, known as "agricultural doctors" (in villages where less than 1,000 people reside). These practices are tiny, and not heavily equipped, but their doctors can meet basic needs - such as measuring blood pressure, or prescribing medicine, when people run out. If the patient's problem is too serious, he/she is immediately transferred to the hospital, of course. But for elderly people, living away from big urban centers and being unable to move easily, these doctors are actually a big help and relief.

Agricultural doctors are employed for a year (and then another comes), and basically you have to be extra lucky to get a place. You apply for two villages anywhere in Greece and then, for each place, whoever has the more "points" gets it. Points are determined according to waiting time after graduation - for every 2 months that pass after you have graduated, you get 1. As a result, students who are unemployed for the most time after graduating, have more points and then get the much-wanted place.

Me, only a few months after graduation, I had 4 points. They were ridiculously inadequate, so I had to make a wild guess - apply for a remote place, one that nobody would think of choosing. I thought of faraway Mytilene, and I was lucky: I got the place!

So I came here, knowing nothing about the island and way of life, and I am now training at the hospital for 3 months. After that, I will move to the village and be the "village's doctor"! Luckily, the island is beautiful, the people are amazing and most importantly, the place does not "hibernate" during the winter - with 90,000 people residing on it, things are pretty lively even in January.

But, as wise people say, when it rains, it pours. And just when I was getting settled and used to my new everyday life, I'll maybe have to leave again. This is the dilemma I am facing right now, and I need all the help I can get to decide.

After realising that this post is too long (as usual), I will write the specifics tomorrow. Until then, have a fun Sunday night and a wonderful Monday morning, everybody!


  1. I have a question for you that has nothing to do with this post. I have an acqaintance who has decided to come to Greece on a trip, completely by herself.

    Of course, many people have expressed concerns over safety. What would you say about that?

  2. (I'm not trying to "advertise" my own country, after all, I am the first to point out the bad things than happen here).

    In my opinion, Greece is one of the safest countries in the world. The streets are crowded even at 2 in the morning and the big cities never sleep, so it is safe to wander alone, no matter the time.

    Also, Greek people are really helpful and almost everybody speaks English, so in case your friend needs help or info, they are likely to go out of their way to help.

    Of course, every capital city (if she goes to Athens) has its rowdy patches. For example, she will have to be careful with her belongings at the crowded metro stations to avoid petty theft, but let's face it - where shouldn't you be careful? Athens metro is no more dangerous than Berlin's or Prague's, for example. Also, there is one specific square (Omonoia square) that drug users frequent to get high, but even Athenians avoid this place at that time.

    Other than that, there is absolutely no need to worry about safety. Women travelling alone has become increasingly common in Greece, and the worst that can happen, with the Mediterranean temperament and all, is to get a flattering remark by the occassional passerby.

    So, your friend has nothing to be afraid of. Oh wait, actually there is: To become so enchanted by the country and its people, that she decides to stay here and never go back! LOL :P

  3. A two-part episode! The suspense! I like it, build up the suspense and have your readers come back often to check if the second part has been posted. :)

  4. Pathology is a very important and respectable field of medicine. One of our very best friends is a pathologist and enjoys his work, and the freedom it affords very much.

  5. Based on a little googling that I just did, I would say that Mytilene looks like a gorgeous place to be!

  6. I'm anxiously awaiting your next post! In the mean time, I don't think pathology is a strange choice. It's a fascinating science.

  7. Thank you, guys! Everyone here thinks that something is seriously wrong with me, after choosing this specialty. They say that is a bad choice because you are not considered a "real" doctor, you have no contact with patients and you don't earn a lot of money.

    No wonder why there is minimal waiting time to start - it is the most unpopular specialty of all.

  8. I think pathology sounds like detective work, and that sounds great to me!

    So the question is whether you should stay and be the village doctor or leave to study pathology? If so, that is a tough decision. My only advice is to follow your heart, sorry I am not more helpful! Good luck!

  9. So I was reading this post and it seems that you definitely do have a big choice to make. If it were me, I would probably stick with the original plan. Spend your time working in Mytilene and have some amazing experiences. Maybe even get to know some great people that you can always go back and visit. And then go back to studying pathology.

    However, if you feel a very strong pull like Mytilene (am I even spelling that right??) is where you need to be, then you should stick around, at least for awhile.

    But I really wouldn't change the original plan unless you feel very, very strongly like it's what you're meant to do. You can always go back later.