Summer 2015 Reflection

Today is my last official day of summer!  Here, I jot down a few quick notes of reflection.

First, I am thankful to have developed a deeper understanding of and appreciation for public policy as a means of improving America’s health by working at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C. this summer.  I am particularly drawn to health policy because of its far-reaching impact across large populations.  While not all policies affect each demographic group in the same way, the greater vision for health policy is (or at least, should be) to improve access to quality health services for everyone, particularly those with fewer benefits.  All healthcare providers should seek to get involved in public health initiatives, even though these projects may diverge from the medical specialty or area of preference.

Tonight, I finished Dr. Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal.  A surgeon himself (#goals), Gawande performed extensive research and reflection on aging in the United States and the institutional approach to caring for the elderly and those who are terminally ill.  His main argument is that each human should receive the kind of care that he or she wants and values.  Often enough, particularly in the cases of the elderly and terminally ill, the patient’s desire isn’t to lengthen life but to enhance life.  He discusses the broader definition of “care”; the role of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospice services; and the preeminence of the patient’s will and perception of lived happiness.

Slightly different from my main takeaways, I absolutely love Gawande’s idea that dedication to a cause beyond oneself is “loyalty…the opposite of individualism” (126).  I often ponder the extent of “selfishness” behind my goal of becoming a physician-activist and ultimately a service-oriented human being.  Instead, I must work on accepting that feelings of gratification will undoubtedly surface following self-recognized achievements, yet these moments of pride and joy ultimately will not dilute a greater humanitarian vision.  I will enjoy these fleeting moments immensely, but my “story” will eventually have an ending (as I’ve come to terms with, thanks to Dr. Gawande)–and I pray that this ending will be a resolution of sorts, having left the world more beautiful in my wake.

Cheers to Fall semester 2015!

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