Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Physician's Detour on the Journey Toward Simplicity

by: Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD

I start every year by choosing a theme. Usually the theme emerges over weeks, as I sense God leading me in a new direction. Last year, I chose a theme of simplicity. I felt led to begin by decluttering our home, focusing on one small space at a time. So I re-read Contentment (a book by my friend, Dr. Richard Swenson) and followed a few websites that inspire a journey toward simplicity. Our decluttering began with my bedroom closet and moved to the kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, kids' rooms, and so on. Slowly, 2016 became the year of simplifying, removing clutter, and reclaiming physical spaces to gain spaciousness of mind and spirit.

Halfway through the year, this physical decluttering was interrupted abruptly by a need for surgery and, later, some physical therapy for my arm. What began as an external process shifted into an internal restructuring, cleansing, and rebirth. A physician-turned-patient, I had to rely on others for daily tasks and also for inner strength, at times, with an even greater reliance on God through prayer.

Now that I'm back to decluttering our home, the inner journey to greater simplicity seems effortless. The immense gratitude that expands as you regain your strength and realize you're filled and surrounded by love is, at times, overwhelming. Although I could write about difficult moments, long waits for needed care, mistakes by well-meaning and very human medical personnel, and more, these memories keep fading. They've been overtaken by experiences of loving care that are cemented in my soul as reminders that I am loved deeply, and that God's love is powerful, tender, and healing.

What I remember most vividly is the kindness, the compassion, and the love I've received.

For years, I've spoken to healthcare professionals about Mother Teresa, the role model that drew me to medicine. She speaks of the power of a smile, of kindness, and of loving the person in front of you. We may not all do great things in this world, she says, but we can all do small things with great love. She's so right!

Small acts of kindness and love may seem insignificant, but they matter greatly. Though they are small, their impact can be far-reaching, for they touch the core of who we are and, often, our deepest needs.

Mother Teresa's wisdom took on a new dimension as I've lived the truth of her words this past year. As healthcare professionals, we must never underestimate the power of a smile, of appropriate touch, of silence, of positive words, of hope. These are the moments I remember, and they continue to bear fruit months later. These moments have power to bless, and to heal.

As physicians, we rely heavily on medications and various treatments while sometimes neglecting the power of empathy, of simple gestures, of love. As a physician and leader in healthcare who understands the impact of excessive regulatory burdens and the countless stressors that continue to threaten our profession, I know how critical it is for us to fight back. We need more time to care for the human being in front of us, and we need to take back control of how we do this. At stake is the very heart of medicine, and the sacredness of our profession.

We have much work to do in healthcare, and the road ahead is tough. I, for one, will continue to teach about the blessings and necessity of kindness and love in the exam room, for they have the power to transform the toughest journeys, one person at a time.

Spreading hope through kindness, forgiveness, and such not-so-small things,

Dr Mari

A few relevant reads: 

Purpose: An Antidote to Burnout

Hope for Physicians: A New Paradigm

Wisdom from Mother Teresa

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