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It’s About Touching Someone Deep to Their Core

By Sherri Klemow, MD

When I was 4 years old, my 17-year-old sister was killed in a car accident. She was beautiful, energetic and about to graduate high school. She was in a car with three other girls, wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and the driver was a teenager. My father answered a phone call to learn from an uncaring ER physician that his daughter was dead, and he needed to come to the hospital to identify her body. When he got to the morgue, no one was there to answer his questions, no one was there to comfort him, and for the rest of his life he had questions and guilt.

As I grew up, I heard this story many times. My father wanted to be a doctor but economics of that day prohibited him. My grandmother, who migrated from Russia at age 18, told me stories about how she was going to be a doctor if she stayed in Russia. I knew by the age of 10 that I wanted to be a doctor. I knew I needed to make a difference. I wanted to become everything that the physician who callously told my father over the phone that his daughter was dead wasn’t. There was nothing else in the world for me to strive to be but a compassionate, caring, detail-oriented, patient rights-advocating physician.

I knew by the age of 10 that I wanted to be a doctor. I knew I needed to make a difference.”

Every day that I walk into the ED, I feel there is a reason for my being there, and that I have a chance to make a difference in someone’s life. It is not just about practicing medicine, it is about touching someone deep to their core. My greatest accomplishment is to provide comfort and erase any guilt to the families of those whose loved ones have died. I give every family member who is there during resuscitation the chance to say their goodbyes prior to terminating our efforts. I thank God every day for the gift of healing, and I hope to always make a difference.

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