14 December 2013

care

happy christmas, you guys! it's been awhile. 

i learn something new about myself & how to do better everyday. do you? this fact has always astounded me -- the fact that you spend every waking (and sleeping) moment with yourself, year in and year out, and yet still have personal epiphanies daily. if you're in the habit of being introspective, even little things can prompt such discoveries; for example, i give you: fortune cookies!



okay, okay. i know what you're thinking. fortune cookies are pretty cliche and usually not worth the paper they're haphazardly typed on (is that too harsh?). even so, this one from our favorite local sichuan place (see: legend. OMG, go there.) the week before thanksgiving gave me a pause. was it because it was the week before thanksgiving? or because i was then wandering the hospital wards on a semi-elective neurology rotation with lots of time on my hands to observe other doctors in action and be pimped-on-the-daily about obscure neurologic diseases? the answer to both of these could be yes. regardless, it elucidated why despite inadequacies in my memory, intelligence, and other measurements of medical prowess, my patients still seem to think i'm an okay doctor; because i truly take so much joy in taking care of people.

i read a lot. it's one of the things i've loved about living in NYC (did i mention we're moving to philadelphia in july for my infectious diseases fellowship at UPenn?!? ecstatic!) -- being able to read on my commute. this year i read a plethora of medical and non-medical and marginally-related-to-medical books. one of my favorites: abraham verghese's autobiography my own country. it's a raw, honest, introspective piece of hard-to-put-down writing. it chronicles his early career living in rural tennessee, as an indian physician, taking care of HIV patients at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. heavy and light all at the same time. one of my favorite things about the book is the clarity with which you're introduced to his genuine care for his patients. he doesn't say it. but you see and feel it (and so much echoes the experiences i've had going through residency): "i have lived for five years in a culture of disease, a small island in a sea of fear. i have seen many things there. i have seen how life speeds up and heightens in climates of extreme pain and emotion. it is hard to live in these circumstances, despite the acts of tenderness that can lighten everything. but it is hard to pull away from the extreme life lived far from mundane conversation. never before have i felt so close to love and pain, so connected to people."

aren't people and the care of them what this life is about? despite my intermittent and moody introversion, that's my realization looking at this silly fortune: cure is sometimes out of your control, but caring never is. care for people. 

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