The universe we live in is billions of years old. Our lives here are a blink of an eye in comparison. Many of us travel this journey merely existing. Others live the adventure and find the purpose. The difference we make in the lives of others is tremendous. Yet, many of us fail to react to this calling.
As doctors, we are in a unique position to forge a positive impact in the lives of numerous others. It is not just our ability to heal diseases or ease pain and suffering but the standard we set. Patients look up to us. Yesterday, a 12 year old came to me for a physical and she told me all about her recent power point presentation. It was for career day, and she wants to be a doctor. And not just any doctor, but a doctor like me. Kids look up to us. We need to be a positive role model to them.
Several elderly patients come to see me, I believe, just because they don’t know anyone else to talk to. Sure, I am busy like every other doctor. But, instead of rushing those patients out the door, pull up a chair and spend a few moments with them. These patients may not need much medical care, but they taught me a great deal from their vast stores of wisdom. And they were truly happy to find comfort from another person for a moment. Many of them are abandoned by their families and by society at large. Just 5 minutes can make a world of difference to them.
“The difference we make in the lives of others is tremendous. Yet, many of us fail to react to this calling.”
When we treat patients, they are often at their worst and lowest points in their lives. They can become downright nasty. But, step back a moment and remind yourself that they are suffering and may be lashing out in pain and suffering. So many of my patients returned and apologized for their previous poor behavior. It is a different tale if they are persistently rude and abusive. There is no way to know this without giving them a second chance. Some of these patients turned out to be the nicest patients I know.
We don’t need to spend days ladling out food in the soup kitchen and traveling overseas to an impoverished land. We can make a difference every single day in the everyday life that we live. We are capable of doing this by opening our hearts and having more patience and trying to love more. When we look at real suffering, we should try to see a way to alleviate it. We don’t need to make large contributions to organizations to serve the poor. A little bit goes a long way to those who have nothing. It takes just many people giving very little to effect a change.
This holiday season, let’s all dig inside of us and give a little: a little more time to listen to a lonely patient, a little more money to feed a hungry family. Because as we enjoy our holiday celebrations, many go without. Kids are unloved around the world. People are dying of preventable illness. Wars are destroying families and homes.
The earth will continue to turn, whether we are alive or whether we chose to LIVE. In each one of us, we have the very real potential to disrupt some of the suffering somewhere in the world. As doctors, let’s start in the exam room with our patients.
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Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.