Current evidence suggests that much of human health is influenced more significantly by contextual factors like the social determinants of health than the direct receipt of health care. This relatively new understanding has challenged the notion of “physicianhood” and what it means to improve the health of entire populations and communities. With the influx of issues that the pandemic has brought with it, this new model for being a highly effective physician has become even more important.
Now that I am a little older and deep into my medical education, I realize how well Moby Dick elucidates the values of resilience, interconnectedness and self-renewal in medicine. In fact, there is one “character” that epitomizes the lessons we as health care providers can learn from Melville’s work: Ishmael.
What does it mean to lead a meaningful or purposeful life? One common feature that appears in many cultures is the pursuit and attainment of happiness throughout life. Recent research has unearthed predominant patterns in happiness, and consequently, two major perspectives have emerged: hedonia and eudaimonia.
My eyes ran across the same paragraph for the fifth — or maybe even sixth — time in the span of 15 minutes. Though I was giving my undivided attention to the paragraph, I could not move past it; I was at a complete loss for how to convey my next point.
I gritted my teeth as I stretched my pinky finger across the fretboard of my acoustic guitar, reaching for the last note in a D-sharp chord. My unconditioned hand was cramping from the fourth chord progression that I was trying to learn, and after straining a little bit more, I huffed in exasperation and slammed my tutorial book closed.
Drawing from this discussion of humility, one can see that we are not so different from our patients, which may seem obvious but is too often not embraced. We are all limited; that is the natural order of things.