Today is National Doctors Day. As I noted in a previous blog post, this celebration was started humbly in 1933 by the wife of a Georgia doctor. Nearly 60 years later President George H. W. Bush signed Proclamation 6253 establishing National Doctors Day to recognize physicians for “their leadership in the prevention and treatment of illness and injury…”
There are many celebrations of other professions, causes and holidays. So why single out doctors?
The first line of Proclamation 6253 says it best:
“More than the application of science and technology, medicine is a special calling, and those who have chosen this vocation in order to serve their fellowman understand the tremendous responsibility it entails.”
From the moment we put the short coat on during our medical school’s white coat ceremony, to the first history and physical with a patient, to our most recent work with someone in need, we all live with that tremendous responsibility.
Physicians must navigate the complexity of the human condition and the physicial needs of patients while attending to the social and psychological context of care. It requires strong intellect, reasoned decisions based on evidence and special circumstances, and a test of one’s own stamina, compassion and morality.
Two of my favorite descriptions of what it means to be a physician highlight two colleagues who are remarkable examples of this complexity and depth of passion for the profession. Several years ago, Charlie LeDuff followed Dr. Pat Patton, a Henry Ford Hospital trauma surgeon, during a night in his life. Pat is viewed as a “tough guy” and wears his passion for doing the right things for his patients on his sleeve. If you ever want to know why, why he cares, who he is, why he is a great example of the interplay between the complexity of care and the depth of his commitment, look at this video. It is a poignant inspection of this great surgeon.
The second example just recently published in the Guardian was about Dr. Gerard Martin, a Henry Ford Hospital Emergency Department physician. Get a glimpse of the strength, character, and commitment of this remarkable man. This isn’t a television script or a set up piece. It is an example of one of our colleagues who carries the oath at the front lines of American medicine.
As physicians, we have a role in the lives of our patients from the happiest moments like the birth of a healthy child to the most difficult end of life scenarios. These emotional and life changing experiences are shared with our other team members and providers of care, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and all others at the bedside. Not theoretical discussions in a board room, not numbers on a spreadsheet, not an experience from a movie. A direct example of what is done in the most human of all businesses.
I hope doctors don’t need an extravagant celebration annually to feel appreciated. We celebrate our profession daily by doing what we do, each day, every day, every encounter, every decision, every patient.
Thank you from all of us.