Do what you are able

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The endless stream of information being fed to us is overwhelming. New entertainment, narratives, and news stories are being uploaded at a rate that outpaces any hope of ever taking it all in. Up until recently the great limitation was the availability of information. However, now not the amount of information but the interpretation and packaging of that information is what ultimately determines how people consume the media and allow it to affect them. One of the problems now is that we can pick and choose. We can pick stories that confirm what we already believe instead of being confronted by opinions that differ from our own. We can pick content that entertains rather than informs. We can decide what we would like to know and can remain ignorant of inconvenient facts. With all of the information available to us today we absolutely should struggle with the issues facing our culture, mourn the loss experienced by those around the world, and plan wisely with how the earth is changing around us. However the opposite of this is also true. We have an endless supply of terrifying stories to choose from. There are continuous natural disasters, a constant threat of new wars, and uncertainty in the environment and the economy. One could easily sit at home, surf the web and repeat “this is bad” until one of those bad things hit close to home. Our responsibility is to engage with the serious issues of the day while maintaining our balance and perspective. Those who keep their critical minds and comical spirits through even the most troubling times are a benefit to themselves as well as to those around them. So while we do have a dictator gaining nuclear power, social unrest and discrimination at home, an endless salvo of hurricanes on our southern coast, famine in other continents, problems of addiction in our communities, on top of our own personal travails, nonetheless we must limit our stress to only those things in which we can affect change and allow the others to pass. This is not a call to ignorance or push away from unhappiness, rather a push toward change in a select number of instances instead of despair at the ocean of misfortune in the world. Start where you are, to do what you are able.

For the patient

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One problem confronting the American healthcare system today is the projected shortage of physicians. Depending on the study, within the next several decades we will be short tens of thousands of physicians (61,000-95,000 by 2016 numbers released by the AAMC). At the same time many physicians are reporting dissatisfaction with their occupation and high rates of burnout with many physicians stepping away from seeing patients to retire, find another occupation, or employ their expertise in a non-patient setting. Therefore one way to alleviate the shortage of physicians is to keep more physicians in practice for longer.

People go into medicine for many reasons. Many good, some not. Whether said or unsaid, many go into medicine because of the challenge, because they find the human body interesting, and because they enjoy solving problems. And medicine certainly provides a venue for solving challenging problems associated with the human body. Howeveras important if not more important than raw intellectual power is the need to be able to relate well with others even when going through difficult circumstances.

If I were to make a prediction, it would be that those medical students and young physicians who first and foremost were interested in the patient and secondarily were interested in the disease process were the ones who went on to have successful and happy practices. With the push for humanism in medicine, perhaps we will see this trend alleviatethe projected physician shortage and help to make healthier physicians and patients.