It’s a sunny Easter. Like so many before, the skies are blue, the sparrows are chirping, and the trees are blooming. But this year, the holiday’s peace and beauty stand defiantly against a virus wreaking havoc on our lives. Like all storms, this one will pass. It will change us in important ways, but it can’t change deeper immutable truths.
A virus can’t change the principles of science. Before too long, we will know why some patients crash, seemingly out of nowhere, and we will learn the best way to manage respiratory failure. But to move forward, we must avoid the temptation to discount rigorous thinking, latch onto sketchy theories, or abandon time-tested treatments. We need to design meticulous experiments, collect data carefully, nurture healthy skepticism, and learn from our mistakes. The principles of science are immutable.
In the same way, we can’t let the virus upend our medical mission. We may be forced to hide behind masks, speak to patients on screens, and ration scarce resources, but we must never renege on our core mission- to try our best to cure, to relieve, and to comfort. We must treat all patients like family. We must encourage and soothe their loved ones. The mission of medicine is immutable.
Finally, we must not let the virus unravel our community. We may be forced to distance ourselves from one another, to work on new floors, and to form new teams, but we must not let these demands pull us apart. Now more than ever, we need to foster open communication, think well of each other, listen, show respect, be patient, practice kindness in everything we say and do, and place the community’s needs above our own. We need community to weather this storm. This fact is immutable.
In the midst of a crisis, it’s too easy to forget essential truths. I’ve made many mistakes over the past few weeks. Maybe you have too. But let’s take a breath during this week of Passover and Easter—these celebrations of deliverance—to recharge, reset, and refocus. Our world has been turned upside down, but the disruption is temporary. Just like the weather, the fauna, and the flora, the core values of science, medicine, and community will never change. They are immutable.
Wishing everyone a Happy Easter and Passover,
PS A poem from a wonderful Yale Medicine Pediatrics graduate, Cosby Stone, now a faculty member at Vanderbilt.
Lessons from Medical Training
On long dark nights in the hospital
I got a great surprise
that even in the midst of suffering
the sun will also rise.
From patients and their families
I learned a new refrain
that love is never far away
even in the midst of pain.
From doctors who their wisdom shared
I saw how character’s made
how courage is the plan that you’ve prepared
to guide you when you’re most afraid.
We learn from our mistakes and grow,
we study what the past has shown.
The truth is always better than a smiling lie
even when it walks alone.
Though we travel broken worlds of pain
we keep a steady pace
for there are many miles we’ve yet to run
and we are instruments of grace.