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For Healthcare Professionals, Tragedy Balances with Inspiration


This is the time of year when we traditionally take stock in ourselves and think about what really matters in life.

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."

- Albert Schweitzer

Those of us in medicine have constant exposure to disease, death, suffering, disability, and despair. And just as often, we are witness to the vitality and strength of the human spirit seen in those patients, the ones who most inspire us, who against all odds struggle to regain their health, and overcome disease and disability. We like to think that is because of how we apply our training, science, and intelligence, and often it is. But many times, it is the result of the inexplicable intangibles the practice of medicine frequently encounters where, in spite of our efforts; it is truly our patient’s inner spirit that drives recovery and restoration of health.

This is the time of year when we traditionally take stock in ourselves and think about what really matters in life. We, more than most, see life’s daily dramas play out in front of us and none of us is immune to what we see. When you spend as much time as I do on the wards, and in the OR and ER, you can get a skewed sense of what life is like for yourself and everyone else. Some days are great, and some days are really painful, hard, and depressing.

My best friend in the world, a fellow physician assistant, died in 2008 of the complications from diabetes. He had an unfailingly positive attitude and he taught me much about life and laughs. To Paul, attitude was everything. It framed the way he viewed life’s travails and helped him navagate his patient’s fears and despair.

Paul and I both believed that we had much to be thankful for. We both shared a great profession and calling in life through medicine, the love of family, the ability to work along side some of the most skilled, intelligent, and caring individuals in the world, and the daily opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the patients who, in turn, give purpose to our lives.

I carry Paul’s philosophy with me daily and continue to apply his lessons to the daily challenges that confront me in medicine.

Thinking back on my career in medicine, I have sought out and crossed paths with people, like Paul, who have sparked my inner fire, and influenced my approach to my fellow man. I'm extremely grateful to these friends and colleagues for helping to influence and shape me as a professional and a person. Some would say that I have just been lucky to associate with so many good physicians and PAs, but I think it starts with one's approach to life and profession. I once heard a speaker talk about "luck." And he said that 90 percent of luck is preparation. As healthcare professionals, in many ways, we are prepared to succeed, but still need support and mentoring from many around us to lead fulfilling and happy lives.

This is the time of year when we draw together as friends and family, and enjoy the fruits of our labors and experiences. Thinking back on the year, we can all find things and people we met for which we are thankful. It is a good time to reflect on our blessings, and commit to being supportive and positive to all those that we touch in life. I wish you, my colleagues, all the best that life has to offer this holiday season, and wish peace and prosperity to all. Have a safe, warm and healthy holiday season.

This blog was provided in partnership with the American Academy of Physician Assistants.


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