“In medicine, you are asked to open yourself to others’ lives and perspectives—to people as well as to circumstances you do not and perhaps will not understand.” – Dr. Atul Gawande
Last week, Dr. Atul Gawande delivered a commencement address to graduates of the U.C.L.A. Medical School.
His message was straightforward and inspiring: hospitals are among the few places where one encounters the whole span of society. The special role of health care professionals is to recognize each patient, no matter what their circumstances, as having a common core of humanity – as being a person.
By exercising a sense of warm curiosity, caregivers can better serve those entrusted to them. Dr. Gawande shared with the future doctors an interesting story: he was able to convince a patient, a former prisoner, to open up and share the hardships and effects of being in solitary confinement. This revelation, and the connection it forged between caregiver and patient, enabled Dr. Gawande to more easily tend to the man’s physical injuries, but also offered a deeper message about the role of a caregiver.
In his closing remarks to the graduates, Dr. Gawande said: “…You will be given trust to see human beings at their most vulnerable and serve them. That trust is earned because of your values, your commitment to serving all as equals, and your openness to people’s humanity. The renewal of these values is why we’re all so grateful to be here and so grateful that you will carry those values on, beyond us.”
It’s certainly timely that Dr. Gawande will be with us next week to deliver the Dick Davidson Lecture at MHA’s Annual Membership Meeting. Because you and the caregivers in your hospitals are about to embark on a new statewide system of care whose success will depend not just on meeting financial goals, but also on treating people who are part of “a common core of humanity.” Whole-person care, person-centered care, call it what you will. We will be, along with those new physicians, taking care of people, not just patients.
There are still a few registration slots available for the meeting. Just contact Kathy Gotwalt if you’d like to join us.