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Leaving me speechless: how an early encounter with a doctor influenced my work as a paediatrician

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After 40 years as a paediatrician provides a time to look back at my journey from paediatric patient to paediatrician. In this piece, I describe a key positive encounter I had with a doctor when I was a child. I reflect on how this influenced me to become a doctor, and to become a particular kind of paediatrician. Doctors are trained to elicit symptoms and signs (a task more challenging for those of us in paediatrics) but we also interact with and influence our child patients. We can provide support, reassurance and affirmation of being valued. Sometimes we become a role model. It is possible for us to have positive influences on our patients, sometimes even in brief meetings in less than ideal conditions.


As a child growing up in the UK in the 1940s and 1950s, I was treated for asthma. I was 2 years of age at the inception of the NHS. At that time, the first-line treatments were aminophylline or ephedrine, compared with today’s much more effective medicines. One night when I was age 8 or 9, I had a severe asthma attack. I could hardly breathe in or out or talk. …

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  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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