I believe that life is a balancing act – the blacks and whites of my far-from-professional attempts at darkroom developing, the right and left tilt of the Frisbee as my arm extends, the twists of the coffee shop’s amplifier nobs controlling my voice and guitar, the number of hours of sleeping and waking that allow my eyes to keep focus.
During my three-month Rural Primary Care Track rotation in Mountain City, Tennessee, which boasts a rather new, two (count them, two!) bed hospital, I would be awakened in the early morning or late evening hours alike by the bouffant-hairdoed nurses quite old enough to be my mother. Peeling my cheek from the page of a less than riveting textbook, I was forced to realize that I miscalculated that balance of sleeping and waking somewhere along the way. Emboldened by Mountain City’s finest Shady Street Quick Stop coffee, I would spring back into my best attempt at lively action. The nurses also helped me with the larger task of balancing my life as a medical student with my life as a member of a small town community where the same folks smile at you from the check-out line at Food City, the Wednesday $1 movie rental queue, and the clinic’s chilly waiting area. Positioned far from my home and school friends, the nurses were kind enough to take me under their wing and include me in their occasional “evenings on the town.” Line dancing and country music, despite being a native of one of Nashville’s neighboring cities, are not a few of my favorite things. However, the nurses insisted, and I soon found myself clad in jeans and checked shirt with faux-pearl snaps boot-scoot-and-boogeying to both their delight and mine. With twangy melodies and new hip-swinging moves in hand, we would return to work every Tuesday morning brimming with good cheer, not simply from a welcome evening’s diversion but also from a new found sense of comradery that showed both in our faces and in our care for our patients.
I believe an invaluable part of my medical education is to grasp the following concept: knowing the community and people with whom I work is as important as being able to rattle off the main side effects of a new cholesterol medication. It is this balance that will allow me to not only provide competent health care but also show my neighbors that I am simply another member of their community striving to improve it in whatever way I can. My role as a future primary care doctor, I believe, will not be the sole defining category into which I am placed. I certainly hope my roles will include “caring physician who enjoys a loud bow-tie” but also add in healthy doses of “father,” “the guy that runs around the neighborhood,” “guitar player at church,” and perhaps “good friend.” It is with these goals in mind that I enter each patient’s room with a hearty “Good morning, Mrs. Jones!” believing that a smile and a positive outlook on life are powerful medicines both for the patient and for me.
Life is a balancing act. This I believe. I will be the first to admit that I do not always get it right. Sometimes it seems as though the sickness outweighs the healing and the darker moments overshadow the shining ones, but this does not deter me. With arms outstretched to both balance myself on that unseen wire and to be ready to grasp a welcome hand, I will try. It is the challenge of staying on this wire that keeps a smile balanced on my lips.
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