By Dr. Omar Hamada, MD, pictured with his grandfather Ibrahim Souki, MD, who inspired him to become a physician.
Medicine is a message. It is a message of healing. It is a message of hope. If you are chosen, you will be among the most fortunate few who are trusted with the very lives of patients and their families. You will hold a place of honor and responsibility others are not granted.
These were the last words my 68-year-old grandfather, Ibrahim Souki, struggled to speak to me before he lost his battle to lung cancer in January 1982. He earned his M.D. at the American University of Beirut and completed his residency in Pediatrics at New York University before relocating to Venezuela for five years. He then returned to Beirut, Lebanon, where he spent most of his career. He, and the way he lived his life, was the primary motivation as to why I became a physician.
By treating the poor, he taught me that the gift we’re given must be used to help others regardless of station. By not accepting payment from those who could not afford it, he taught me to seek the betterment of humanity instead of seeking to profit from their suffering. By refusing notoriety, he taught me humility, sacrifice and generosity. And though blessed with both, he taught me that integrity of character is true wealth, and it matters so much more than any amount of money.
Our healthcare system has changed significantly over the past three decades. The business of healthcare has irreversibly compromised our ability to truly practice the art of medicine as many of us were taught. In fact, it has allowed third parties to drive deep wedges between our patients and us. However, at the foundation, the intimate message of medicine is still alive and well, though many of us have forgotten it. It is there. We must be aware of it, rediscover it, and share it.
As a physician, I remind myself daily that what I do truly matters. Sometimes patients and their families have little to hold onto other than the firm hand of their doctor. Sometimes, their last remaining hope is found in our reassuring eyes, our comforting words and our gentle smile of understanding. It is at those times when our spirits connect and nothing else matters – not bills, not malpractice attorneys, not meaningful use, not compliance with various clinical protocols, not patient satisfaction surveys, not quality metrics, but the heart-to-heart connection between us and our patient.
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to see this message of hope repeatedly displayed on the battlefields of Afghanistan, in the dry arid climate of Sudan, in the lush jungles of Panama, in the mountains of Lebanon, on the plains of Peru, in Mid-town Memphis, and in the suburbs of Nashville. Though the geography changes, the need doesn’t. People everywhere look to their physician for strength, for hope, for reassurance. Let’s not lose heart. Let’s not be distracted by the winds of change in the business of healthcare. Let us hold fast to the message only we can deliver to those who are scared and suffering.
..the intimate message of medicine is still alive and well, though many of us have forgotten it. It is there. We must be aware of it, rediscover it, and share it.
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