Author(s): Dr Ranjana Srivastava
We put much store in freedom of choice, but when it comes to our own medical diagnosis and treatment, are we equipped to make the best decisions? And are healthcare professionals properly prepared to guide us? Alarmingly, oncologist and award-winning writer Ranjana Srivastava says they're not, and people are suffering — even dying — as a result. The internet encourages people to self-diagnose and browse for expensive and often unnecessary specialist attention, while healthcare workers feel bound to provide whatever service a patient requests, even if they know it to be risky, of dubious value, or a delay of the inevitable. And as doctors increasingly specialise, they offer patients only a small part of the puzzle of their health, crucially lacking an overall picture. Srivastava contends that the best medicine should begin with a good chat. But our doctors are often ill equipped for the task. In her frank and clear-eyed assessment of an unacknowledged crisis, she makes an impassioned case for healthcare training to incorporate effective communication skills alongside advanced medicine.
Dr Ranjana Srivastava was educated in India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. She graduated from Monash University with a first-class honours degree and several awards in medicine. Ranjana undertook her internship, residency and specialist training at various Melbourne hospitals. In 2004 she won the prestigious Fulbright Award, which she completed at the University of Chicago. She was admitted as a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 2005 and started practising oncology in the public hospital system. Ranjana's writing has been published worldwide, including in Time magazine and The Week, and in medical journals The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association and Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care Management. In 2008 her story 'Ode to a Patient' won the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Award for outstanding writing. Ranjana lives in Melbourne with her husband and three young children.