The trajectories of our life and career journeys can be straightforward, or they can be convoluted, with many sharp turns, nooks and crannies, and detours along the way. The changes and challenges that life has in store for us can be great. What matters most is that they eventually lead to a happy and fulfilled life – and not just in career terms. The following stories of personalities from among AMU graduates illustrate this statement.
Kateřina Rusinová’s (née Urbancová’s) career path took not one but two major turns. To her, the second one where he switched from anaesthesiology and intensive therapy to palliative care, was much more important than when she decided to work in medicine full time at age 25, despite having graduated from DAMU in dramatic theatre acting. The current Head of the Clinic of Palliative Medicine at the 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University and the General University Hospital in Prague studied the medical school simultaneously with acting. “At the end of my medicine and DAMU studies, my feelings as to which career path I should take were about balanced. Medicine drew me in eventually. I received an offer with a clear outlook on what will happen in the following year,” Associate Professor Rusinová explains what made her opt for the physician career. She believes the beginning of an artistic career is much more difficult and less secure in this respect. “Opting to change my medical job radically and focus on palliative medicine was a tough decision that was pivotal for my life,” the physician explains and adds that, following fifteen years of urgent medicine based on quick judgment and mastering various technologies and equipment, she started to seek space for further progress. “I started to miss the contact with patients, with individual persons. I wanted to know how they understand their own sickness and what they expect from medicine. I have shifted somewhat from the obvious stance that medicine should save and extend life. I started to focus on the issue of what medicine is good and adequate for a specific patient, in order for it to influence their life in a good and adequate way, especially in the context of serious diseases,” Kateřina Rusinová explains. What has this career shift brought into her life? “It was encouraging for me to find out that you can do this even after such a long period of time. That there is never too late for a change, as it expands your horizons greatly. Palliative care is strongly focused on communication, empathy, and the patient’s needs, and this matches my idea of what I expect from a job that should be fulfilling to me,” says the physician. She sees similarities between acting and being a physician in the attitude towards patients’ life stories and in an honest approach to studying characters. “The sensitivity to one’s life story along with respect for a dramatic character with diverse motivations along the life journey, which can sometimes be quite convoluted… this is what DAMU gave me,” Kateřina Rusinová notes, adding that people sometimes ask her if she ever ‘acts’ when at work. “I never do, in fact it could never work. This is completely out of the question for the sake of authenticity in the physician-patient relationship. It would be unprofessional,” she replies and adds that there is a parallelism with acting work in the sense of searching. “It is a bit like when an actor is seeking the means of expression for the character they are playing. For my part, I seek what it is that my patient needs, how I can help them live the best life possible despite a serious disease,” she notes. She is currently channelling her professional effort into work at the Clinic of Palliative Medicine at the 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University and the General University Hospital in Prague, specifically into teaching students, which is something she sees as a great responsibility. “We are teaching the next generation of physicians, and this is something I would like to do with full commitment in the years to come. I find that this approach to medicine – and to patients above all – is sorely lacking. I wish there are physicians like that when I am sick one day.” She adds she is really grateful for the opportunity to study at DAMU. “I appreciate the creative and artistic approach I developed there. It’s a great asset for my way of thinking in life in general as well as specifically about issues that can be quite technically, scientifically, and pedagogically focused at times,” she says and encourages students to not be afraid to study everything they are interested in. “This way, you’ll amass a wealth of experience, which is priceless. It’s not just about the depth of immersion in study – the breadth of your scope can also benefit various types of careers and jobs. The path to a happy and fulfilled professional life does not have to be completely straight at all times,” concludes Kateřina Rusinová.