Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Doctor's Motivation - Lessons from Venezuela

BBC - Hundreds of Venezuelan doctors have marched through the country's capital, Caracas, demanding the expulsion of Cuban doctors.

President Hugo Chavez says he invited the medical staff into the country to provide free health care for the poor. But Venezuela's doctors, who are also asking for better wages, say the Cubans are taking their jobs.

They say the government is trading its oil revenues to pay for some 20,000 Cuban doctors and dentists. Dressed in white medical gowns and bearing national flags, some 400 doctors and medical staff carried banners reading 'No More Cubanisation!' as they marched.

Under a special programme set up by Mr Chavez and his ally Cuban President Fidel Castro, Cuban doctors, dentists and nurses work in newly set-up medical centres in Venezuela's poorest areas. In exchange, the oil-rich country sends Cuba 90,000 barrels of oil a day.

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I attended a church service the other day where the key speaker was a missionary to India. I'll sum up my impression of the guy pretty simply: I thought he was a buffoon, but that's beside the point. What struck me about his work was that the spiritual reward he got from practicing his calling was enough for him. In that sense, I admired what he was doing... I disagreed with his message, but I respected his passion.

This is my chief problem with the spirit of capitalism: it places the fulfillment of materialistic desires above what is good for the soul, what is good for society. In Venezuela, you have the case where the long-neglected and underserved poor are finally being helped by the government, and a handful of upper-class doctors cry foul. I respect their right to try to protect their interests, but I don't agree with the idea of placing profits before people.

The physician ought to practice his speciality the same way the missionary practices his, with satisfaction in his labors reward enough for his efforts. It's not quite that easy in the real world, of course. Innovation and expertise must still be encouraged and rewarded monetarily. There's a reason doctors are well-paid in this country, after all. Cash is supposed to equate to quality, and to a certain extent, it does. But this rant is not about what it takes to be a "good" doctor, it's about what it takes to be a "happy" one.

You could be making all the money in the world, but if you cannot find purpose in your life (whether that's serving the poor, preaching the Gospel, or following some other endeavor dear to your heart), what's the point?


Venezuela: A Photo Essay

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