On my first day as a fully-fledged medical student, back in the mid-sixties, the Professor of Medicine gathered all of us students together for a welcoming talk to prepare us for the next three years of hard study that lay ahead. Thankfully there was not a vision or mission statement in sight, but he did talk about the Hippocratic Oath (first do no harm and all that) and what these three years would demand of us in terms of discipline and commitment.
Then he said, and it seems like yesterday, “But I want you to remember that, while we will be teaching you a very great body of knowledge, and half of it will be right, unfortunately half of it will turn out to be wrong. And there is one other problem. We have no idea which half is which! ”
How ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’! There is so much information ‘out there’ and accessible now, much of it contradictory, or even misleading. I am very aware that as doctors we have plenty of scope for ‘sins of commission’, actually doing harm with the substances that we prescribe, often trading short term benefit for long term consequences.
But a greater area of concern for me is that because the body of information is now so enormous, and because of the division and specialisation in Medicine, it is very difficult to gain a truly coherent picture of how things actually are. We often fail to see the wood for the trees, and get lost in the ‘forest’ of knowledge. The consequence of this is that we often commit ‘sins of omission’, where, through unawareness, misunderstanding, misinterpretation or even wilful ignorance, we fail to provide help that IS already known and understood and ‘out there’ somewhere.
There are many areas in the field of health where these comments apply: in illnesses such as M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; the whole cholesterol debate; in obesity; and in what is known as functional medicine, to name but four. So the question is if it is so difficult for doctors to get it right, how then do you find a reliable understanding of, and answers to, today’s many and complex problems?
Fortunately, the area of hormone health provides a rewarding field for the study of these issues; from HRT to fertility problems; from premenstrual syndrome to post-natal depression; from fibroids to polycystic ovaries.
My intention is that my fortnightly column gives us an arena to exchange information and ideas about anything and everything in the field of hormone health, and explore how to develop the discrimination necessary to arrive at the truth.
I come to this from my own life experience; from a background of four years as a Doctor in hospital and twenty-five in general practice and from a career-long interest in psychology, philosophy and complementary medicine; and more recently in hormonal and metabolic medicine. I have a great curiosity towards the WHY? of illness (which is not well answered by mainstream medicine), rather more than the HOW? of illness (which, of course, is).
The area of female health is fascinating as it demands a truly holistic approach to its problems, which may be physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual, and often all of these at the same time.
I hope that, as we continue, you will be sending me many questions and comments, as these will shape what I will talk about, and help make this column as relevant as possible to your own concerns.