link to The Times
New doctors were yesterday urged never to forget that the patients they are treating are all people whose faces often mirror their pains and secret fears.
Speaking during yesterday's University of Malta graduation ceremony at the Jesuits' church in Valletta, academic Joseph Cacciattolo said that while patterns of disease have changed over the years, patients' faces - or their anxieties - have not changed at all.
"Medical teaching needs to be responsive to the whole of a person who is a patient and the fact that medicine is a caring profession that uses science should be the principle of all our teaching activities," he said in his oration.
Prof. Cacciattolo said that while the possession of knowledge and skill in its application are very desirable they are not enough to produce a humane doctor.
"It would be wrong to train a doctor who is proficient in treating diseases but is unable to comprehend or appreciate human predicaments and social milieu. The practice of medicine is essentially about care and compassion and patients will only care about how much their doctor knows after they know how much he cares."
Medical education curricula need to emphasise the human element of medicine and foster its practice not only as a profession but also as a vocation.
"To practise medicine is also to serve and doctors are in a unique position to be of service to the dispossessed and to the most disadvantaged members of our community. The weak, the disabled and the poor deserve more of our attention and certainly equal respect. Irrespective of our status or office, what defines us is how we treat others and, indeed, our measure is what we give and not what we have."
Prof. Cacciattolo said that there is a danger that the patient is perceived exclusively in scientific terms and instead of being treated as an ill person, is seen in terms of deranged organs or deviations from the normal in laboratory tests.
Josette Camilleri, who yesterday graduated Doctor of Philosophy, outlined the challenges faced by students. Among these, she said, was the lack of commitment shown by some members of the lecturing staff. "Like most professional Maltese people today, lecturers feel that the remuneration provided by the University is not enough to provide a decent standard of living compatible with people in their profession. To make up for this they practise their profession privately to make up for the shortfall. Although there is some sympathy for this attitude, it is unfortunately the students who have to suffer the brunt of the lack of commitment," Dr Camilleri said.
The following students graduated yesterday (* denotes in absentia)
Doctor of Medicine and Surgery
Sponsor: Prof. G. LaFerla
Monique Angele Abela, Shawn Agius, Andrew Raymond Amato-Gauci, Natalie Apap, Joyce Aquilina, Rosalie Aquilina, Muhaiyo Bartolo Hodjayeva, Claire Bellia, Michael Bonello, Victoria Bonello, Jeffrey Bonnici, Rodianne Bonnici, Charles Joseph Borg, Tessa Bugeja, Melanie Burg, Josephine Busuttil, Marvin Cachia, Denise Camilleri, Dawn Marie Caruana, Karin Caruana, Daniel Cauchi, David Cauchi, Daliso Chetcuti, Claire Cordina, Charmaine Cremona, Geraldine Darmanin, Maria Debattista, Maria Douloufaki, Adam Falzon, David Falzon, Stephanie Falzon, Denise Formosa, Karl Galea, Glenn Garzia, Lynn Grech, Stephanie Guillaumier, Charleen Lia, Jonathan Mamo, Andre Mercieca, Glen Micallef, Josef Mifsud, Martina Muscat, Nikolai Paul Pace, Andrea Parascandalo, Chantelle Manuela Portelli, Matthew Psaila, Joana Pereira M Raposo De Almeida, Carlo Refalo, Matthew Sammut, Kurstein Nicholas Sant, John Schembri, Neville Spiteri, Viktoriya Tkachenko, Kristelle Vassallo, Bernice Vella, Margrethe Von Tangen, Josef Zahra, Christian Zammit, Paul Zammit, Julian Zammit Maempel.