White coats hide broken hearts….

The door to the exam room opens and in walks your nurse to sit with you and go over some questions that will prepare the doctor for your exam.  “How have you been feeling?”  “Any side effects to the treatment?”  “Stomach pains, headaches, fevers?”  All questions you’ve come to know and anticipate.  Your nurse takes your blood pressure, she guides you to the scale and takes your weight: standard procedure on exam day at the cancer center.

When your doctor arrives, he/she has looked over your chart and your exam is underway.  All in a day of cancer care and hopefully you leave there ‘status quo,’ if not better.

Do you ever stop to wonder what led your doctor or nurse to oncology?  It’s got to be one of the hardest practices in medicine.  The news is rarely good.  The treatment’s work only some of the time and giving bad news is a constant in cancer world.  It is one, tough, daily grind.

Last night I was in the audience at a symposium titled “Improving Minority Health and Achieving Health Equity.”  How the medical world can better treat ALL of us.

The panel was filled with extraordinary men and women of science and they shared interesting perspectives on the topic of the evening but it was prior to the topic discussion that made an impact on me.  The moderator asked each panelist what made them go into their particular medical field?

I think we sometimes forget that the very people we look toward for medical guidance, have lived through medical crisis just like we have.  They have lost loved ones too.   Disease and illness does not skip the health care professionals wearing the white coats.

A favorite Aunt suffered terribly during her kidney disease and that led to one panelist becoming a leading Nephrologist.  Another went through the heart ache of watching her sister suffer through a deadly childhood Leukemia.  She now leads a team of medical professionals who reach out to the community to introduce the importance of clinical trials for various cancers.  And another who witnessed first-hand from her village in Liberia, what poor health care can mean for socially at-risk groups;she has become a leader in ‘Health Care Equity,”  She takes policy and translates it into practice; improving lives and health care throughout the Baltimore, Maryland region.

This was a wake-up call.  We take for granted, the people we lean on to help us through our hard times. They have experienced their own heartaches.  Maybe that’s what makes them so special.  They ‘get it.’

We need to remember those white coats might be hiding a broken heart too.

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