During the first week of my Infectious Diseases placement, I recall attending a teaching session by one of the specialists. With much enthusiasm she said: “All diseases start with an infection!” I pondered about that statement for a while and realised that maybe she has a point.
In cases like rheumatic fever leading to heart problems etc later on in life, or H pylori infections leading to gastric ulcers that could eventually lead to cancer, maybe there is truth to her statement.
Infections occur in all systems, and has a multiple-system effect. They don’t always present themselves in the same pattern either. By giving the right antibiotic/antiviral etc among the masses available, you can save a life. Pretty exciting indeed.
During my placement, I met several patients who were in severe sepsis (basically dying) one day, seemed unaffected the next. Magic. One patient around my age came in and was barely able to open his eyes and breathe (he was breathing about >30 breaths per minute). He was losing his breath whilst talking to me. We administered antibiotics and when I visited him the next day, he was back to normal. Magic.
Perhaps my mom had a point when she was encouraging me to pursue Infectious Diseases as a specialty. She has always spoken highly of the specialty, ever since she worked very closely with them as a clinical epidemiologist. I recall the days when mom would travel to Vietnam with the WHO to help eradicate malaria. Perhaps it is due to my early exposure to the specialty that I took a natural interest to infectious diseases. Or perhaps it’s actually in the blood.
Nevertheless, after these two weeks at the Infectious Diseases department, my commitment to oncology is still as strong as it has always been. But my respect and interest for the specialty has definitely grown.
I maybe won’t become an Infectious Diseases specialist in the future, but if there’s someone I would entrust to save the lives of the masses, I would definitely turn to an Infectious Diseases specialist to save the world.