Between 1994 to 2007, if you'd asked me, "What do you do?" I suppose I'd have replied, "I'm a GP." Certainly that was how I mostly earned money, even if I rejected much of the ideology of the discipline. This was a delicate matter. My chief concern was to keep my workload within reasonable limits, which I did by working as a locum and billing by the hour. Such an attitude was a certainly an affront to the notions of vocation claimed by the betweeded denizens of the British Journal of General Practice. I had no desire to confront this ideology: it seemed in many ways humane, certainly in comparison with other parts of the profession. And anyway, I didn't really have the intellectual tools to do so, and wasn't particularly interested—at that time—in acquiring them.
Still, I was flattered, in 2003, to be called by one of the editors of the Br J Gen Pract, and asked to write about blogging for the back pages of the journal, presumably on the strength of the columns I'd been writing about the internet for the BMJ for several years.
I remember finding the BJGP article hard to write: I'm not sure that I shared the vision of the commissioning editor, and I was certainly more interested in maintaining my own blog and making music at the time. But I wrote something, and delivered it, probably on time, and in due course, it appeared.
Usually I enjoy rereading my old stuff, but not that one. By that time I'd developed significant disillusion with the dis-ease of use of the free software of the epoch. I was ambivalent about proposing that all doctors should blog, though I'd taken it up myself. Doing it on free software seemed almost insurmountably difficult; yet handing over all comms and memory to predatory capitalists and intrusive state agencies using proprietary platforms was as much an evident danger back then as it is now. I didn't pose the issue explicitly in the article, but my nagging doubts that I was merely a fashion victim do seep through, I think, and it's hardly a comfortable position as an author.
A decade later, happily retired from general practice, I suppose I was right that blogging would catch on: both Twitter and Facebook are effectively blogging platforms; but wrong that this would greatly affect general practitioners, who seem largely absent from them. I guess taking up blogging would be something to be done on the eighth day of the week. And the duty of confidentiality makes any discussion of individual cases online so fraught as to be best avoided entirely. Neither has the publishing world's snail-like progress towards open access aided trade among doctors in professional articles. Progress towards the noble goal of making the world's scientific literature open to anyone who cares to read it, has, to my mind, been disappointingly slow, though things are going in the right direction.
Anyway, when I moved to France in August 2007 "for six months off" I stopped paying all of my medical subscriptions, including to the Royal College of General Practitioners, and felt that it was only right that I should saw the MRCGP off my name (the M stands for member). And as holders of a bachelor's degree in medicine are addressed as doctor only as a courtesy for clinical settings, I have converted, for all purposes, to being a simple monsieur, et toute ma vie y est améliorée.
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