The Eternal Flame

Today I visited Arlington Cemetery. I saw the rows of white tombstones surround The Eternal Flame. I experienced the hallow nature of the hillside. I felt the awe of sacrifice. As I reflected later on, I began to recognize the similarities between the emotions stirred by my visit today and the goals I strive to fulfill with a career in medicine.

Make no mistake: I am not here to insinuate doctors and soldiers are equal. They are not. Doctors are compensated handsomely for a job that very rarely proves fatal to us. Soldiers can say the exact opposite. They deserve the enshrinement of Arlington cemetery. However, the resemblance of our respective professions’ goals are striking. At their core they both are altruistic services provided for the betterment of societies we believe in protecting. One of the many differences between them though is that soldiers often know when they win or lose a war. A treaty is signed or a white flag is waved. There are declarations and parades. The victors write history and the losers succumb to it.

But where is our treaty? Where are our parades? Who is writing our history? Too often the medical field declares victory when they should be declaring war. To Err Is Human is not a parade pamphlet, but an acknowledgement of defeat. We shouldn’t need 400,000 tombstones surrounding us to realize that. I think that is the thing about this conference that gives me the most hope. We are 30 young medical professionals who are ready to declare war on an unsafe system, but don’t quite know how to fight. We have a burning desire to change medicine for a better at TPSER10. It’s an eternal flame.

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