The Humbled Physician

When I was in medical school, my mother, 53 and healthy, had a massive heart attack and ended up needing a heart transplant. By day I donned my white coat and learned the science and practice of medicine. By night I slept on a cot in my mother’s hospital room, observed her cycles of pain and relief, the comings and goings of doctors and nurses, translated and advocated for her. While my medical colleagues and I quizzed each other, and compared procedures, I agonized at the thought of my mother being the guinea pig as we fumbled through our first central line or NG tube insertion. While my attendings chided me for “caring too much”, my mother encouraged me to sit on my patient’s beds, ask them about themselves and how they were doing.

I became painfully aware of the chasm between physicians and patients, science and emotion, medicine and real life. The caring that was missing from health care disturbed me, and left me struggling to make peace with my profession. I considered leaving it, but the fact is, I simply love being a doctor too much, and am grateful for my skills and knowledge of scientific medicine.

I am hoping this blog will be a venue to articulate what is often lacking in the halls of medicine, and to explore ways to fill the void and transform it. To educate and empower patients, to honour our bodies and our journeys through illness. To heal the healers. Ideally this will be a collaborative effort – a tapestry of our stories and ideas – so that we can learn from each other, and, together, create change. Thank you for joining me!

Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, B.C.

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