Watch Your Role as a Doctor on the Stage

Physician's Money DigestNovember 2006
Volume 13
Issue 11

Recently, I bumped intomy old friend WilliamShakespeare at the StratfordFestival in Canada—although he was born in1564 and was rumored to have died in1616, true fans know better.

Dr. Constan:

It's nice to see you,Will. What have you been up to? Say,you're not still working are you?

Mr. Shakespeare:

Of course I am. If Ihad retired, I'd have died at least a centuryago. I keep busy inspiring youngwriters and philosophers around theworld. Speaking of young writers, howhave the muses been treating you? Notgood? I believe I might inspire you byinterpreting some of my writings foryour modern physicians, who may benefitfrom a classical education.

Dr. Constan:

Go right ahead.

Mr. Shakespeare:

As You Like It

As You Like It

We'll use Jacques' soliloquy from : "All theworld's a stage, and all the men andwomen merely players, they have theirexits and entrances, and one man in histime plays many parts." Your doctorsneed to realize that there are powerfulsocietal forces pushing them to act incertain prescribed ways. It's tough toresist that. That's what the "seven stagesof man" in is all about.Allow me to elaborate:

First stage. "At first the infant, mewlingand puking in his nurse's arms." Rememberin medical school and residency?You were pretty dependent on the nurses.You looked to them for help as much asyou did your attendings. You were helplesslike an infant in many ways.

Second stage. "Then the whiningschoolboy?creeping like a snail unwillinglyto school." Were you ready for lifewhen you graduated residency? Ofcourse not, you were filled with doubtsand only reluctantly went into practice.Or did you opt for extended training, fellowships—hanging around the old town,not ready to hang up your own shingle?

Third stage. "Then the lover, sighinglike a furnace?." Somewhere alongthe way, you became preoccupied withpersonal matters, finding a mate, startinga family, and selecting the perfectarea to live in and practice.

Fourth stage. "Then the soldier?sudden and quick in a quarrel, seekingthe bubble reputation." You reach astage in your career where your reputationis your concern. You want to beseen as a solid doctor, contributing tothe profession—standing out in thecrowd. You volunteer for hospitalpositions, go on mission projects, andhelp out at the free clinic, workinghard to establish yourself.

Fifth stage. "Then the justice, in fairround belly?full of wise saws andmodern instances." This is a great sceneto play, and I hope all your readersreach it. You're living the good life;you're at the top of your game. You giveadvice and people eagerly listen to it!

Sixth stage. "The sixth age shiftsinto the lean and slippered pantaloon,with spectacles on nose and pouch onside?his big manly voice, turning againtowards the childish treble?." This hastraditionally been your age of retirement.It signals a lack of relevance to themodern world. It's when you becomean old fogy—someone who talks a lot,but people don't listen to him.

Seventh stage. "Last scene of all,that ends this strange eventful history, issecond childishness and mere oblivion,sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sanseverything."This is where you get reallyold. But in your modern time, I haveto admit, this has changed. Your vaultedmedical advances have preserved thehealth of the really old and enabledthem to live relatively happy lives,assuming they were not "sans money." They have to pay for all those expensivemedical treatments, don't they?

Dr. Constan:

Thanks for the greatadvice, Will.

Mr. Shakespeare:

It's no problem.I'm just playing my part. And I neverbelieved that the timeline described inseven stages only went one way. Youcan wind back the clock and return tothose earlier stages, if you wish. You canfind a new career or go back to one ofthose stages you particularly enjoyed.I'm currently in that "justice" stage.

At that, he patted his fair round belly,I blinked my eyes and he was gone.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physicianin Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of theSaginaw County Medical Society Bulletinand Michigan Family Practice. He welcomesquestions or comments at 3350 ShattuckRoad, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or

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