“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
This quote comes from self-help author Melody Beattie, and I came across it while thinking about what to write about this month. It seems so incredibly fitting as a way forward this month that culminates in a day where many gather with loved ones to give thanks.
For many of us, the world feels out of control, chaotic, and confusing right now. Some of us want to deny the challenges we are facing locally and nationally. It can feel so much easier to just stick our heads in the sand or distract ourselves with mindless TV or TikTok videos (I am particularly prone to the former). It’s certainly easier than wondering how a young man in our community could choose to kill children and teachers in his alma mater. It’s less distressing than thinking about the fact that someone tried to harm a member of Congress and almost killed her husband. It’s less disturbing than thinking about how our freedoms and rights, things we have come to accept as inalienable, may be in jeopardy and how the efforts we have made to create more diverse and inclusive communities may be at risk. In times like these, I find turning my mind to gratitude, rather than denial or distraction, is a helpful antidote.
I have a lot to be grateful for – a loving family that puts up with me, my health, and work that I find meaningful and fulfilling. For me, that latter fulfillment comes from three domains. The first is taking care of patients. I still love patient care. I find that if I don’t do enough of it, I miss it and don’t feel like myself — not grounded. I get so much personal reward from supporting people in their health and illness, helping to guide their choices of treatment and preserve their values during vulnerable times. The second area of my work that gives me fulfillment is teaching. I especially love teaching at the bedside and in small groups where I can assess if what I am doing is working. Seeing that realization dawn on someone’s face when they understand something that they didn’t before is such a gift. Finally, I love helping people solve complex problems. That is what drew me towards administration and leadership in education. In the end, I see education as a way to change the world for the better in big ways and in small ways. Each of you are doing that every day and it is my job to help you, to make it easier, to clear the roadblocks, to provide vision sometimes and to support someone else’s vision other times. That is truly meaningful work for me.
As I saw the 3rd class of Phase 1 MD and MSTP Gateway students recite their oath at the White Coat Ceremony late last month, as I talk to rising Phase 2 students who are so excited to start their clerkships, as I meet with students getting ready for Phase 3 who are preparing for their specialty choice and differentiation phase, and as I talk to our final year students preparing for their match, I am just so grateful for what we have built together. Similarly, I see the incredible new curriculum in PT – the first competency-based curriculum of its kind. I watch the build out of the OT Center for Community Living and marvel at the commitment to improving the lives of our community. I go to Sling Health Demo days to learn about the creative solutions our MD, PhD, and undergrad students have thought up and hear about the incredible research our PhD students are doing. Finally, I have the privilege of routinely hearing about the incredible clinical care and teaching of our house staff and faculty. I am just blown away. I’m reminded so often of what an incredible place this is and what truly amazing people I have the honor to work with and support every day. It is such a blessing.
What are you grateful for this season of gratitude? And outside this season? I hope with all my heart that at least one thing you are grateful for is knowing what you contribute to this truly critical mission that we all share – advancing human health through the promotion of wellness and the delivery of outstanding health care, innovative research, and the education of tomorrow’s leaders in biomedicine within a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking and creativity. It does not solve all the problems we face, but it is a remarkable contribution to making the world a better place. Happy November.