“The patient is the most important visitor on our premises. He may be dependent on us, but we are also dependent on him. He is not an interruption to our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our work, he is central to it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to serve him.” —Mahatma Gandhi.
I remember reading this quote in the book, Wall of Silence by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh, on my way to the conference and bookmarking it because I really liked it. As only a rising second-year medical student, I feel like the effects of burnout were already starting to rear their ugly heads by the time my first year of medical school finished back in May. As awful as it sounds, I felt that as a consequence of already feeling burnt out, I could emphasize with these sleep-deprived residents and the mentality of “in-and-out medicine.” However, this summer has been rejuvenating, not only for the sake of my mental health, but also for morale. Back in May I was generously funded to attend the annual Preventive Medicine 2019 Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, where I confirmed my passion for public health and discovered the incredibly diverse field of preventive medicine, which at its core, includes the tenet of patient safety. I remember leaving the conference filled with the determination to complete a preventive medicine residency, as well as a newfound excitement for the Telluride Experience, as I felt that my experience during #PrevMed2019 could greatly assist my time at Telluride, and I haven’t been wrong. I wanted to highlight the quote by Gandhi because I feel like this is what medicine is supposed to be like at its core; however, through shadowing and talking to physicians and residents about the issues of the EHR, reimbursement biases towards procedures, and burnout (to only name a few), it seems pretty clear to me that not all health systems are operating under this philosophy. I felt like this quote accurately summed up the main takeaway from today’s series of lectures and activities: the patient is the most important person in the room, they are not a disease or a statistic, but a person who can teach us more than just medicine; they can teach us to be better humans. I would also like to say an enormous thank you to all the speakers today, especially those who shared such personal stories. I can’t imagine how difficult recounting, retelling, and reliving these stories must have been, but I am in awe of your courage, strength, and determination to not allow your loved one’s legacy to die in vain. Thank you for sharing with us your stories so that we can help amplify your voices to change a system that is very clearly broken.
It’s only been the first day of the conference, but I already have ideas of what I’d like to do when I get back to my home institution:
1.) Work with our medical school / university hospital / affiliated community hospital to sponsor a screening of To Err is Human.
2.) Work with our clinical instructors to have a simulation where medical students, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, etc. need to work as a team to tell a patient and his/her family that a medical error has occurred, as seen in the To Err is Human video.
I haven’t quite thought of what my project would be yet, but I’m hoping that in the days to come, some inspiration will spark a lightbulb in my head! I can’t believe this was only Day 1; I’m so excited for the week to come!