With the publisher for final edits, my most recent book, The ME in Medicine, looks at the practice from—as you might expect— the personal perspective.
And indeed, as you embark on your journey as a medical professional you will find that, although designed to ultimately benefit others, it is a very personal passage.
In the book I use my 30 year practice as a neurosurgeon specializing in back pain as both a backdrop and as a window into the world of medicine as it is practiced in the 21st century. In it, I use that window to show why medicine needs to change— one doctor and one patient at a time.
As both a doctor and as the Chair of Neurosurgery at the Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, this is my responsibility. But as someone studying to treat patients or someone who treats patients and wants the best possible outcomes, it is also yours.
An ancient Indian parable speaks of a man with bare feet who wants to walk across a field of thorns and has two options: He can pave a path in the field or he can make himself sandals.
In the first case, by paving the field of thorns he sets out to change what is around him. My work at Seton Hall is just that. A new school of medicine, we are forging a new path and new ways to teach and practice the art and science of healing: community based and contextual, the curriculum interprofessional and designed to ultimately change the way medicine is practiced in the United States.
In the second instance, in making himself a pair of sandals, the man chooses in a sense to change himself, to equip himself differently to face the thorns.
Your choice to pursue a medical education is the choice to equip yourself differently to face the thorns; it is, I would suggest, your pair of sandals.
Given that so much of the healthcare in this country is devoted to chronic conditions, a good medical school education must not just prepare doctors to treat patients acutely, but must also teach those doctors to teach their patients how to fashion their own sandals to traverse the thorns of their condition.
And if just one new doctor and patient learn how to fashion sandals that effectively lead them through the thorns of illness and healthcare in the 21st century, we have succeeded, because it is a start.
But if hundreds and then thousands of patients and doctors don those sandals and walk together, on their own journey, through those thorns—together we will have paved a new path, one patient and one doctor at a time.
Dr. Patrick Roth is the Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Seton Hall – Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine as well as the Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Hackensack Meridian Health. He is the author of The End of Back Pain: Access your Inner Core to Heal your Body (Harper Collins, 2014) and The ME in Medicine (Changing Lives Press, 2018).
Categories: Health and Medicine