On Friday evening, I got an email from an attending, praising a resident who'd given expert care to a patient in a crowded ER hallway. She'd created sanctuary amidst chaos, and made us proud.
We physicians have an impressive ability to ignore chaos. We use this ability to practice medicine well. We build cocoons to shield us, if only briefly, from troubling distractions.
But recent events have made it untenable for us to focus solely on medicine. Members of our community have been touched by natural and man-made disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes to nuclear threats. Healthcare is under siege. Refugees are being denied refuge, and neighbors born abroad are facing deportation because their skin is brown. Like a simmering volcano, daily gun violence erupts regularly into mass murder. And just when we should be uniting to address our country's problems, we're dividing into tribal units, while greed, ignorance, and mendacity contaminate the highest levels of government.
So what should we do as physicians when the world screams for our attention? I believe we must turn outward and acknowledge public engagement as central to our mission. As we conduct research, we must defend science. As we care for patients, we must fight for human rights and universal healthcare. As we teach each other, we must share knowledge broadly by writing and speaking. In this increasingly fragmented world, we must care for each other and role model a community that is diverse and just.
We cannot let chaos distract us. As troubles reign outside, we must focus on teaching, research, and clinical care. But we cannot hide from these troubles. Instead, we must use our talents to address them. This is our opportunity and our responsibility.
To the extent that recent events touch anyone in our residency, they touch us all. Today's chaos will pass eventually, and if we work according to our deepest values, we will do our part to quicken its passing.