Q&A with Dr. Gilles Laur

I am originally from one of the Caribbean Islands named Martinique. It is known to be the place where the royal family from the UK goes to spend their holidays. I moved to France when I was seven years old to the South close to the Spanish border. Both my parents are Obstetrician Gynaecologists. Contrary to how it usually goes with families of doctors, they did not want me to become a doctor. But, I did. I did my studies in Montpellier with the oldest medical faculty in the world. It was quite an unreal experience to be in the amphitheatre where centuries of doctors have been trained. I then moved to Reims, the capital of Champagne, to do my internship. I enjoyed a lot of challenges there and met great mentors who paved the way for my medical enlightenment.

After this,  I wanted to challenge myself and went on a journey of locums. The more challenging the position, the better. Many people were afraid of rural work, but I embraced it. Far from the comfort of the big cities and hospital support, I was transported back into a world like in Bulgakov’s book. That is where my medical leadership got sharpened. I wanted to build experience and was seeking it with a passion.

My goal is to build 25 years of experience with as much variety of learning and bettering myself as possible. Every year needs to bring a new set of skills and knowledge. That is how I have always thought my life should be about. My most challenging position was being the only doctor in a town 5 hours away from any major hospital support with the responsibility of looking after the local hospital and the local aged care facility. There were no street numbers and supplies only came around by truck once a week. This time reminded me of the old adage: “ Beware of what you wish for!”. I had a wonderful time doing locums, nonetheless. Then, I moved to Australia.

I came for the adventure. A land so far away from my original country, it seemed like the beginning of a fairy tale “ in a far far far away land…” It was, for me, the country of  new changes, hope and endless opportunities.   I am grateful for all the opportunities given to me. I have met great and enthusiastic people from whom I learned a lot. I met my wife here, and now we have a beautiful boy that brightens our life with much joy.

From a young age, I have always been passionate about the mysteries of science. I wanted to be a pilot like most kids. But, my first experience in a small plane taught me the great lesson that I was not cut out for that.

I enrolled in medicine initially because I wanted to unravel the secrets of the DNA. As I got into contact with patients, I realised that there was a greater goal that could be accomplished there. To become a doctor is embracing the selfless love of understanding humankind in all aspects. Medicine taught me to be independent and resilient. It helped me realise who I am as a person, reviewing my own values and goals.

You are not the same person when you walk out of medical school. You change to tackle the challenges that are thrown at you in this profession. But, at its core is the unchanging drive to give back to the community  as a good person with integrity and respect. I always wanted to make a difference in patients’ lives. Some doctors might think their specialities do better than others in achieving that. From my experience, every healthcare practitioner can contribute to the greater good of patients.

This is a tricky question. A good doctor is in the eye of the beholder. For instance doctors might be impressed with a Dr House. Despite poor bedside manners, his skills will bring respect and the reputation to be a good doctor among other doctors. On the other hand,for the patients, being treated with respect and integrity is sometimes more important than how much the doctor knows. This is all about relationships.

All doctors have passed their rigorous training and exams successfully. They have been judged competent against a standard to provide good care. The difference from there is personality. Like with making friends, you might click with someone straight away, which inexplicably can be harder and even impossible with others for no obvious reason. At the end of the day, the good doctor is someone competent that makes you feel respected; who you trust to make the best decision with your health. It is all about trust, and trust starts with the connecting bond of this relationship.

I am old school. People see it as a job, but I never saw it like that. It has always been a vocation. As a result, I can get fired up by cowboys and unethical people abusing patients’ trust. I think that doctors have the ultimate duty to respect and nurture the trust that patients are putting upon this profession. As a result, doctors should display professionalism, respect, integrity, fairness, honesty, sound ethics and leadership.

I think it is an essential part of doctorship. To evolve as a doctor, you need to evolve as a human being. Hobbies are also your natural connection to the community. I personally enjoy philosophy, music, drawing and fighting sports. Philosophy nourishes my psyche and how I see the world. Music cultivates my soul. Drawing enriches my artistic part where I can express myself freely. Fighting sports set the discipline and resilience I need to bring to reality my projects.

I have been doing skin cancer Medicine for a decade. I have always seen the struggle of patients with varicose veins. I wanted to help them. Consequently, I looked for a training to be able to treat veins. That is how I enrolled with the Australian College of Phlebology to become a Phlebologists ( vein doctor).  

Although, I don’t only treat veins. I treat a person with vein issues, but it does not stop there. Some doctors might limit their consult by acknowledging  that the patient’s concern is not vein-related and does not look further than that. “That’s not my job” is not a part of my vocabulary. Even the smallest of concerns deserve the right attention.  Patients entrust me with their health; and, if I don’t have the answer to their problem, my duty is to refer them to someone who can help. When I treat veins,  the real problems are swollen and painful legs, which entails a more holistic approach.  There can be more causes leading to what patients experience than what we think.

My philosophy has always been to be the care you wish for yourself and your family. My goal is to stay at the cutting edge of medicine to provide services I will recommend to my family. I don’t offer stripped down loose service. I endeavour to bring the best service I can and make a significant contribution to the community. On the other hand, I believe in the simple not the complex. What someone understands well can be explained in simple terms as the words come out easily. 

I believe that after seeing a doctor, you should notice an enhancement in your quality of life and more empowerment in your health. We can’t cure everything but we can lighten up the burden of some chronic diseases.

The right method with precision is key when it comes to achieving exquisite results. A thorough understanding of vascular anatomy and ultrasound scanning is a part of the equation. The treatment you receive is only as good as the skill of the person administering your treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. But, the real secret lies in the patient-doctor relationship. It is the trustful engagement of both parties that creates the magic.

Contrary to the expected answer, my signature treatment is not a procedure. It is in the diagnostic process. The assessment of the problem through a holistic  approach and addressing all areas with a sophisticated treatment plan is my signature. You cannot provide good care and adequate service to the patient without understanding clearly all the aspects of the concern. You don’t treat the pathology of a patient. You treat a patient who has a pathology. Each patient is then thoroughly examined and given a treatment plan with my recommendations and costs. They are advised to go home with it and think about it with their family. There is no pressure to proceed with any treatment. Second opinions are encouraged.

Medicine is an art and, as every art, there are different points of view. You need to seek the care that is the best for your circumstances and the doctor you trust to be able to achieve that. When you choose me, you inherently acknowledge that our values match and we can work together. 

Some doctors get frustrated by trying to explain concepts that took them 10-15 years to understand. One of my teachers used to say to us regarding learning medicine: “You are trying to put knowledge that has the size of a mattress into a brain that has the size of a sock”. If it takes someone 10 years to understand all that, one cannot expect a patient to get it in 15 minutes.

Analogy is a good way to go, and then, it is all about patience. It takes time to comprehend medical concepts. People today want more ownership of their health. There is a lot of support to help them achieve that. Doctors get offended when patients challenge them or bring Google searches to the table. It is but an ego issue. The patient is giving a chance to participate in their health asking for an opinion from a trusted adviser. If they did not trust the doctor, they will not try to open the conversation about their concerns. They are asking for advice because it is so hard to make sense of the vast amount of internet data available. Repeating the information, clarifying misunderstood concepts, patience and kindness are key.

Pretty much the same as what I have been doing for the last 20 years–studying, working and enjoying my family life.

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