Sometimes in spite of a worldview that prioritizes scientific rationality above all us, we see things that aren’t easily explained.
Its important to be open to wonder. Even for docs.
I remember lamenting my first December having to work straight through. A wise mentor helped me reframe my self-pity. “It’s a privilege to work on Christmas,” he told me. “Our patients count on us. You may not want to be in the hospital, but think of what they’re going through.” He smiled, as if he were welcoming me to a special club, one that I wasn’t wholeheartedly ready to join. “Your mere presence helps reduce each patient’s sense of loss.”
I had the privilege of working again this year, in much less harrowing circumstances. Several of the hospital staff gave me warm nods, acknowledging we were all part of the club — either choosing to work the holiday or ‘taking our turn.’
As an attending physician, it’s one of my jobs to pass on the tradition of medicine as a calling to the next generations of doctors. Using the essay as fodder, I asked my interns how they were coping with working their first Christmas.
One intern replied meaningfully that since he doesn’t celebrate the holiday, he’s glad to be working in place of others so that they can spend time with their families.
I was moved. I do get sentimental this time of year.
Hallward is the creator and host of “Safe Space Radio,” now in it’s seventh year, a show that’s a back-to-back winner of the Maine Association of Broadcasters’ Public Affairs Award.
She recently gave a TED talk at an event in Maine. It’s compelling viewing, deeply personal, and gives a window into how one caring and empathic doctor has taken her skills to a broader, community-wide, public health level.
It’s well worth a listen.
I’ve become increasingly aware of a movement, a philosophy, an attitude called Slow Medicine.
The concept is an outgrowth (and homage) of the Slow Food movement.
I’d heard about Slow Medicine from the book “God’s Hotel” by Victoria Sweet, who practiced for two decades at Laguna Honda Hospital outside of San Francisco. Let’s just say that Laguna Honda is not your typical American hospital.
A concept that Sweet shared really stuck with me: viewing the human body as a garden to be tended (a medieval view) instead of the modern attitude of the human body as a machine to be fixed.
Think about that.
More recently, I was fortunate to be included as a recipient of “Updates in Slow Medicine” from two doctors, Pieter Cohen and Michael Hochman, who both trained at the Cambridge Health Alliance, in Massachusetts. That’s where I also trained as a resident.
Their work really resonated, so I was lucky to be able to write about it for NPR:
We here at GlassHospital Media have just completed Season 2 of the public radio program “Medical Matters,” the show about Health Care and the Human Condition.
One of the standouts of this 2nd season was an interview with Dr. Anne Hallward, a Maine-based psychiatrist who has taken to the airwaves herself in an effort to ease suffering by covering “subjects we would struggle with less if we could talk about them more.” Her program, “Safe Space Radio” is now in it’s seventh season. It’s well worth a listen.
Hallward is a marvelous interviewer, and the name of the show says what it provides—a haven for people to talk about things that shame them: things like medical illnesses, psychiatric conditions, caregiving for loved ones with said issues, or relationship difficulties. Bringing shame out of the shadows is empowering for afflicted individuals; really, though, it is for all of us. She’s on to something here.
Our interview with Hallward was the first time she’d had the mic turned around on her. Her vision of where this show will go is inspiring—a radio program in pursuit of social justice. To understand it better, give it a listen.