The Soul of Medicine

People who are in medicine are attracted to this profession because of an innate desire to help others. They find that they often are drawn to those who are in pain. One does not acquire this character trait but rather is born with it. Some health care providers demonstrated this nature at a very early age while other when they were teenagers.

I came across an article in which Rachel Remen MD shared some stories of when physicians first recognized that the needs of living things mattered to them. Let me quote her.

“One surgeon told me that when it rained, there were puddles full of earthworms on her way to school. The boys loved to stomp on the earthworms and kill them. She was only 6 or 7, but she asked her mother to wake her 15 minutes early whenever it rained so she could get there first and take the earthworms to safety. Other stories are even simpler, and sometimes the person telling them learned about them from his or her parents and does not fully recognize what they story means. The mother of an eminent neurologist told him that when she would give him a folded white handkerchief to take to kindergarten each morning, he would always ask her to give him another one in case someone else needed one. He was 4 at the time. Often there are also sadder stories of “going along with the gang” and hurting an animal or an insect only to discover a deep sense of regret and shame that lasted for years-the sort of reaction you have only when you have violated some innate personal principle in a profound way.”

It seems that with the rigors of medical school and residency some doctors lose sight of why they went into medicine. They become cynical, depressed and alienated. And so medicine is practice without a soul. It becomes mechanical and compassionless. But if physicians can return to their roots, then the soul can return. For it is really only when we are passionate about what we do that we can make a difference.

Terry Pfau DO HMD

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