Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Of Doctors, Humility and Humanity


Just recently, someone I know entered medical school with great hopes, expectations and vision for a future in medicine, and what I'm hearing about his initial experiences brings me great joy and hope. 
Having begun medical school without fully knowing what to expect, the person with whom I spoke described the public health and community health focus of the first weeks of his medical training. Rather than being initially sequestered in a classroom with books and charts, medical training began with a grounding in pertinent issues pertaining to communities and public health, offering a broader view of medicine than might be gleaned from the lectures and didactic learning that one might expect.
Aside from this encouraging beginning, I was also moved to hear that the introduction of these medical students to gross anatomy lab was performed with humility, humanity and a sense that, even when faced with imminent dissection of a corpse, the sacred indeed can be invoked.
According to my friend, the introduction of this class of neophyte doctors to their respective cadavers was performed with great respect for the gift that the deceased—and their loved ones—had made to science and medical education. Namely, the gift of their bodies for the training of new doctors.
The students were organized into groups of four, and each was paired with a body that would be their companion throughout the year as they delved more and more deeply into the mysteries of human anatomy. They were given the name, occupation, age and other vital information regarding who this person was during their lives. They were also informed that, at the end of the year, a memorial service for this group of cadavers would be held, a service to which the deceased individuals' families and loved ones would be invited in order to properly thank them for the selfless service in the interest of the greater whole. 
I'm very moved by this story, and it brings me great hope that the newest generation of doctors currently undergoing their medical education will produce a number of individuals who approach the practice of medicine with the humility, pathos and humanity that it deserves—and that patients also deserve.
As I’ve said in the past on many occasions, doctors and nurses can work harmoniously together for a common goal. And when our medical providers are the recipients of an education that calls forth their deepest humility and a sense of the sacred, the effects are far-reaching and deeply impactful for nurses, doctors, patients, society—and humanity.
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