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Laying Bricks, Finding Purpose

September 07, 2021
by Stevi Kramer and Cecelia Smith

Dear Colleagues,

I had the pleasure of visiting the Yale Surgery team at Shoreline last month — a walkaround exercise I hope to make a habit this coming year. Meeting with the team there – each person, almost bursting with enthusiasm to show me their work — I was reminded of the bricklayers’ parable.

The story, based on historic accounts of the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral following the Great Fire of London, tells the tale of three workers.

“What are you doing?” they are asked.

The first bricklayer answers “I am laying bricks.”

The second says “I’m putting up a wall.”

The third says, “I am building a beautiful cathedral.”

As in the parable, Purpose is what transforms a job into a calling; it’s what connects our work to our mission, and makes us happier, more engaged, and more productive. As we begin the new academic year, I’d like us to think about how we can create a culture that transforms our perspective as bricklayers into cathedral-builders.

Our Faculty Retreat on Sept 17 is protected time to begin this work — of finding our “cathedral,” and wrestling with the ways we can resource and empower one another to live out our purpose — one brick at a time.


Nita Ahuja MD MBA FACS
Chair, Department of Surgery

Submitted by Stevi Kramer on September 07, 2021