My Motto: Patient First

Dr Sherlyn Elizabeth PAUL responds to ThinkWellness360 questionnaire

Why and how did you think of becoming a doctor?

It is, to use a cliché, stating the obvious. My mother is a nurse by profession in one of India’s premier institutions — All India Institute of Medical Sciences [AIIMS], New Delhi. I had had the good fortune of seeing my mother on duty, right from my childhood. What impressed and inspired me was her altruism, also genuine concern, and empathy, for patients — be it any time of the day, or night. My father too was just as dedicated to the company that he worked for. Well, I owe it to my mom who persuaded me to opt for alternative medicine, viz., homeopathy, when I couldn’t clear my Pre-Medical Test [PMT], as it was called at that time. So, I enrolled at the prestigious Nehru Homeopathic Medical College, New Delhi, affiliated to University of Delhi, for BHMS, in 2008, following which I pursued MD [Hom] at Father Muller Homeopathic Medical College [FMHMC], Mangaluru, affiliated to Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences [RGUHS], Bengaluru, in 2014. As luck would have it, I was on the academic faculty at my alma mater [FMHMC], in 2017. I teach Homeopathic Materia Medica for under-grad [BHMS] students.

What made you think of, study and specialise in the system of medicine you now practice? 

Well, this is an interesting question — this is also something I impress upon my students for motivation and encouragement. Homeopathic materia medica — a collection of homeopathic ‘drug pictures,’ organised alphabetically by ‘remedies’ that best describe the symptom patterns associated with individual homeopathic remedies — is my passion, a flower that blooms without an end. The subject is an ocean, no less. The more you delve into its subtleties, the more there is to dive deep — albeit the end is nowhere in sight. You remain a student all through — what with every day being a new learning experience. I owe it to my materia medica teacher, Dr Annapurna Sarangi, MD [Hom], who with her exemplary erudition and insight aroused my latent dream and also gave me the requisite direction to embarking on a wonderful journey into a fascinating subject — the homeopathic materia medica. The next best foundation was provided by Dr George Matthew, MD [Hom], in his lectures. This expanded my horizons in the subject, from the ground up — the nectar, as it were.

What has been your personal and professional experience as a doctor?

This is my ninth year as a professional — a practicing doctor. The appreciation, or acknowledgment, you receive from family, friends and others is something that makes one feel elated. When younger, I used to be like everyone else in the age-group — I’d say that I’d love to be a gynaecologist, one time, and something else, the next moment. How destiny works is remarkable. You just attend to your inner call when the time comes — yes, it works this way, almost on ‘auto-pilot,’ simply, and in a manner born. It led me to my destiny — to being a homeopathic doctor.

What unique and special skills you think you have that has made the big difference for your patients?

Homeopathy, as we are taught, treats the person who is ‘dis-eased,’ and not the disease in isolation. So, we aim at knowing the person from the inside out and to identifying the cause of their health problems. This is the crux of homeopathic treatment. To achieve this pedestal, in word and deed, sounds easy — but, it takes a while for one to fit into the homeopathic tenet, or what is classically referred to as the unprejudiced, also keen, observer, i.e., to attentively listen to the patient and get to know them through the meticulous process of case-taking. I believe that I possess this skill to affably listen and understand my patients — to identify where the trouble is and what should be used as a homeopathic remedy. This line of thinking, as is obvious, ranges from the therapeutic perspective to counselling, among other measures.

What is your best definition of optimal wellness and why? 

For me, this encompasses of a positive, balanced mind-set, because our mind has the power to make our body diseased — even when there is no apparent physical illness. Just a dash of general anxiety, or any kind of stress, as all of us know, has the clout to hamper your daily activities. Just think of the opposite effect — having a healthy, optimistic mind-set, will make you stronger. It also helps you to endure a major physical ailment, maybe, cancer with good outcomes.

Your ‘best’ case?

This was a case of vitiligo [leucoderma, or white patches], which I was assigned to, as a project, during my under-grad internship. The patient presented with a distinct white vitiligo patch on his face. He was the diligent type who would visit our Outpatient Department [OPD] every fortnight. Lo and behold, the ungainly ‘patch’ healed completely in a span of 3-4 months. This gave me the much-needed confidence boost that I was looking for — it also encouraged me to choose vitiligo as the topic for my PG dissertation.

Your ‘not-so-good’ case?

Maybe, the so-called ‘difficult-to-treat’ skin cases, as they call it from a conventional perspective. You need tons of patience to resolving them — it is also just as challenging for patients to co-operate, not merely comply. When the equation works, the results are usually good, but when they don’t, it may go kaput. This is portentously the outcome of what may eventually be called as a ‘not-so-good’ case. I’ve had my little share of ‘not-so-good’ cases — no more, no less.

What appeals to you the most?

Being genuine, sincere, and diligent in your work — with your moral ‘compass’ pointing towards ‘perfect balance.’

What annoys you the most?

Too much of being a snob, or too complacent, or brusquely rude.

Your favourite book?

I haven’t read a book for a long time. My last read was Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr Brian Weiss. Oh, yes, I am a self-confessed ‘Potter head.’

Your favourite joke?

Nothing as such comes to my mind, right now.

Your favourite song?

Atak gaya from Badhaai Do [Arijit Singh/Varun Grover/Amit Trivedi], which is my mobile phone ringtone too — for now.

Your favourite movie?

Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, Hum Saath-Saath Hain, Manichitrathazhu, Queen, English Vinglish, Hindi Medium, Angrezi Medium, The Lunchbox, Qarib Qarib Singlle etc.,

Your favourite TV, Netflix show?

Bridgerton, I binge-watched Season 2. The Good Witch. Nick Jr [It was Friends before].

Your other interests, or hobbies?

Listening to music, jiving to a good beat, venturing out and trying new eating places.

Your goal in life?

I’d like to be ‘half’ a mother [this would be good enough in the frenzied times we now live in] to my kids unlike my ‘full’ mother has always been to me — encouraging me to be a self-sufficient, self-reliant, responsible adult, as also a resourceful teacher and guide to my students and a caring doctor to my patients.

Dr SHERLYN ELIZABETH PAUL, MD [Hom], a Kerala-born, ‘Delhi-raised’ Malayali, as she puts it, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Homeopathic Materia Medica at Father Muller Homeopathic Medical College, Mangaluru, Karnataka. A doting wife, loving mom, homemaker, and polyglot, Dr Paul not only ‘gung-ho’ with her natural ability to conversing in several languages, but is also keyed-up to adding a few more to her rapidly-expanding linguistic repertoire. She lives in Mangaluru, India.

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