Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Doctor, feel my purse" Jane Ace

Today I feel like I'm in a race against time. Felt asleep really early last night, but woke up late nonetheless. Maybe it’s because I haven't been having a proper night's sleep for a while now. So I'm racing against the clock to shower, dress and come to the center to study in time. I finally make it here.

I make a reservation for a computer and as soon as I'm going to the cafeteria to get something to drink, I run into this group of people in the hallway talking about what seems to them like a trivial conversation. All of them physicians, all of them already graduated, with a degree they are trying to validate, just like me. There's just one huge difference: from the conversation they’re having it seems like their sole drive for validating it is to make money.

I can hear them talk and feel totally discouraged and astounded. Someone says he likes certain specialty, but will apply for this other one because it pays better. Then this other guy says he would love to match in dermatology or ENT because you get a really easy going lifestyle and make millions. And a girl comments about how they sent her a list of the best paid specialties along with the programs that are more IMG friendly. She will apply to those programs of course, and see if she can make her first million in next few years (then she giggles).

Not once did I hear any of them say something referring to helping out people in need, lending their expertise to a good cause, preventing disease or alleviating suffering. And I wonder, why did they decide to go into medicine in the first place? There are so many other things you can do with your life that require less effort and will probably give you more money in less time.

It is not my intention (and never will be) to look down on other lines of work, but I find medicine to be one of the most sacred vocations on earth. So I wonder. When did we lose that compassion? That selfless surrendering of our lives for the well-being of our patients? When did they stop being our main concern? When were they replaced by money?

As physicians we are given the opportunity (I would even dare say the blessing) not only to cure, prevent, save a life, but also to touch a heart, to comfort a soul, to warmth a spirit maybe defeated by suffering. You are not only a doctor; you are also a friend, a companion, a counselor.

We are blessed with the ability to comfort during the inevitable, give hope when our patients are in pain, and even better, participate in the joy of health, new births, first steps. Your family stops being only those who share your blood, but also each and every patient, who with total trust invites you to participate actively in their lives.

Maybe I'm still being too idealistic. Maybe it IS the money after all that drives every one of us. I'd rather think not. I'd rather think it is a vocational calling. That some of us forget it, but will eventually remember. A calling that remains dormant in our hearts but will awaken when needed. There is something spiritual in healing, something enlightening in sharing suffering. There is something sacred in medicine. I just pray and wish with all my heart to remain firm, to be strong when the world tries to pull me in to that black hole where all that matters is how much you own or make. I just hope we all remain strong, and those of us who have forgotten what it's all about, remember.

I love my life, even when all I'm doing now is go back and forth from home to the center, when I have to race against time to do as many things as I can in the least amount of time. Even when all this effort seems overwhelming sometimes. It’s all worth it, every second of it. Because someday soon I will touch a life and change it forever. Someday, a patient will look at me with that indescribable look that warmths my soul and I will remember once again what this is all about. And that thankful look will be worth so much more than any million I can earn, for I will know that I have started to change the world.

"Nothing is more essential in the treatment of serious disease than the liberation of the patient from panic and forboding."
-Norman Cousins

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