This short story
was taken from the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine (Battar SS, Ann Intern Med. 2005;142:304
). It's a true story written by Sara Battar, M.D., and happens to be one of the more touching stories I've read in a while.
About a patient with dementia, and how he reacts to his wife's death.
I've never been much of a sucker for medical journals. I suppose I should be more like some of my 'hardcore' colleagues who read these bimonthly journals religiously who are able to regurgitate studies that were published in them. This story stood out from all those case reports, randomized double-blinded case-controlled studies.
Not really sure what my point is, or if I do have one.
Perhaps, in the pursuit of academic advancement and professional growth, we sometimes lose touch with humanity. Forget what makes us human first and healers second.
I vividly recall this semi-argument I had with a physician senior. Brilliant person who will be heading to NYC for a coveted cardiology fellowship, who (in my humble opinion) lacked compassion. He said that it was wrong and unethical to having one's patients become friends. And that it was wrong to even have a meal with them. I suppose I can see how some people find this a hot topic. For me though, it's only natural that after caring for someone for years, you get to know someone more than as a constellation of diseases and medications. You are thrilled when you hear they have a new grandson, or are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
More recently, I had my exit interview with my program director. Something the SMuRfs
do before we complete our training. Dr. K asked me, "What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?"
I think my answer surprised and stupefied him. I think he was expecting the WFMC usual: research, this award, that award, blah-blah.
My answer: "Forging good friendships and knowing I made a difference."
The truth is, I don't really consider my degree or publications or certificates symbolic of my achievements. No, I keep my treasures in a shoebox in my bedroom. That's where I keep cards and letters from patients and friends. And that's why I remind myself I love this job.