When I was young and pursuing a scientific education in engineering and medicine, I was convinced the world could be all summed up by equations. The divine spirit and the concept of an “ultimate purpose” had no place in those formulas. Building bridges, airplanes, or performing bypass surgery, these were surely the true manifestation of man’s hard work and higher intelligence. These things were evidence that we can control and shape our world to our liking by applying those scientific pursuits to our lives.
It has been twenty years since I became a physician and cardiologist, and I have come to realize that we are much less in control of things than we would like to think.
I see many patients come into the hospital with seemingly routine admissions who unexpectedly take a turn for the worse. I see some of the sickest patients, even those in comas, fully recover and walk out of the hospital. While some credit me for having saved their life, I know better. I may have played a part, but science still doesn’t explain how some of these people beat the odds, and why some did not.
As a physician, I see a tremendous amount of human suffering. But more importantly I witness our innate ability to will ourselves to survive and to overcome that darkness. It happens through nurture. I have seen my patients be nurtured by doctors and loved ones through their fight to survive or through their decision to accept their fate. I no longer question the divine. While I still believe that our hard work and intelligence aide our ability to cure what ails us, I see an ultimate purpose. To nurture the patient.
This, I believe, makes all the difference.
While not everyone can be cured, it is through caring, friendship and compassion that patients can accept their ailments. As a result, my practice is no longer the sterile, in and out environment that is common among doctors. I listen to my patients. I try to make them feel as though they are visiting a friend, a family member. Through nurture I hope to make both a connection with my patient’s mind and body. Because as I have witnessed, the key to health not only lies in our physical bodies but also with our psychological selves.
I believe by changing the way I practice medicine – by nurturing those in need – I also have nurtured myself. I have found great virtue in getting to know my patients, who are truly fascinating. This was a breakthrough for me and I decided to center my practice on the psychological connection between the health of the mind and body. I believe nurture is the essential ingredient our society is currently in dire need of, and it is definitely within our reach.