This I Believe

Richard - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on October 26, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: science

This I Believe

I believe in the practice of medicine. I believe in the ancient and time honored practice of the art and science that binds the caregiver and patient together in intimacy that no other profession achieves. I believe in those to whom I look up to who pursue this practice with love and enthusiasm that transcends the contemporary pressures – societal, financial and legal that beleaguer it today.

Having been raised by two physicians in the so called golden age of medicine , the 1950’s and 60’s, I was led to believe that this was a choice of careers that allowed one to do well while doing good. The luster of high compensation, respect and low risk of legal attacks on one’s exercise of judgment and the entirely unavoidable human ability to err made medicine a highly sought after choice for my generation.

Shortly after I entered practice in 1983, the bubble burst and has continued to do so such that in less than four years, under current projections, some specialties will earn less than it costs to run the practice, thus producing a net income of zero or less. Chance occurrences producing bad outcomes and perceived or real disabilities produced as a result are treated as physician failures. Our legal system can only produce compensation by proving negligence in a court of law whether or not such negligence has occurred.

These events have not and cannot ever remove the satisfaction a physician experiences when in the course of helping people cope with adversity, he or she is admitted into a relationship of trust and intimacy with people of all ages and from all walks of life. This is a relationship that benefits the physician as well as the patient for it illustrates the common nature of many of our hopes and dreams for ourselves, for our families and for all others.

While I was in medical school, a physician whose particular interest was the relationship between psychiatry and internal medicine, made in a rather emphatic and impassioned speech, the point that many diseases were incurable and that the root of the word doctor was the Latin verb docere, meaning to lead, to teach. Hence it is the role of the physician to help patients live with and adjust to those health issues that are beyond the abilities of modern medicine to cure.

I hope that I will impart these beliefs to the medical students and doctors in training whom I teach the way that I have been influenced by those who have taught me and that this profession will retain the stature that it deserves for all time to come.