Was May a whirlwind roller coaster for anyone else? It was completely crazy for me – filled with ups and downs and unexpected turns.
Like many of you, I spent a fair amount of May on clinical service. For those of you that do not know, I am a general internist and currently, I only see patients in the hospital. I worked with amazing residents and students and together we delivered some excellent care, but the burden of disease and social determinants of health felt heavier than I can ever recall. Is this the sequelae of COVID? A temporary but painful blip after a period where many did not seek care and the economy was destabilized, especially for our most vulnerable? Or will this be a lasting change? I believe that it is likely a mix of both. The massive increase in co-morbid psychiatric and substance use disorders will be with us for some time and will not be easy to resolve. This will have a lasting impact on health and our healthcare system for the foreseeable future. This also has a significant impact on each of us who cares for patients in the clinical environment as we work with them to navigate the complexities of our system and their lives. The emotional exhaustion was significant for me this past month. It reminded me, yet again, of both the privilege I have as a physician to be a part of some of the most intimate, scary and challenging elements of my patients’ lives and the importance of caring for myself in order to be able to show up for them in the way they need and deserve.
To help fill my tank, I was blessed to participate in THREE graduations! I served as the officiant for the first ever fully combined master’s programs ceremony. It was also the first ever graduation for our Masters in Medical Genetics Program! We had an exceptional speech by Dr. LJ Punch focused on being your authentic self and following your passions. On Sunday May 14th, AKA Mother’s Day, my oldest graduated from Wash U School of Arts & Sciences. It was also a wonderful ceremony (if a little hot) and I was able to spend the weekend with my whole family who all came in to celebrate with us. Hard for me to quite capture the enormity of that for me as a mom, but deep pride does not quite get it all. Finally, Monday, May the 15th was Medical School graduation. It was the final graduation of a full Legacy Class and we had the amazing Dr. Anthony Fauci as guest speaker. Both he and Dean Perlmutter spoke to us about the critical importance of science and our collective roles in supporting and advancing truth with our patients and public. Of course, our Wash U motto is Per Veritum Vis – Strength Through Truth. Given the last few years, the challenges faced by this class throughout, our roles in COVID and the work to come, I cannot imagine a more fitting focus for the graduation.
We have now clearly entered summer. Not that this changes much around here, but there is a small lull as we wait for a new class to enter, and a breath before the residents and fellows start later this month. It is a good time to enjoy the beauty of St Louis, our families, and the friendships we have both inside and outside of work. It is also a good time to remember that we are challenged and privileged to do really important work – for our patients, for our learners, for the community and for the world. This is a great blessing and it is ok to be tired, take a break, get help, get support, and adjust so we can do what we are called to do. Wishing you a deep breath, warm nights, cool breezes and confidence that what you do matters.