November 22nd, 2010

Thanks (for) Giving

turkeyThis is my favorite time of year. Not because the leaves are falling and Texas is finally cooling off, but because the upcoming holidays give me time to reflect on the year’s events and appreciate what I have been given. For some, this might bring to mind a big promotion, a new addition to the family, or an “opportunity of a lifetime.” For me, it provides a moment to think about my patients —their lives, their struggles, and their strength — and the lessons that I have learned as a result.

So with the spirit of Thanksgiving hanging heavy in the air this week, I want to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to all those that have blessed me with their gifts.

First, I want to thank my cadaver from the first year of medical school. Similar to other schools around the country, my medical school utilized a Willed Donor Program that allows living individuals to perform the ultimate charitable act and donate their remains to the university in order to “assist, in a material way, the transmission of medical knowledge across generations.” Although I will never know your name or be able to thank you directly, I want you to know that your gift will never be forgotten. Thanks for giving.


 “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

–William Arthur Ward

I want to say thank you to all my clinic patients that push me to be a better doctor, that challenge me to read and be up-to-date on the latest literature and guidelines, and who, without fail, never make a “hypertensive visit” just about hypertension. I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your intimate lives, to share in your successes and struggles, and for giving me permission to walk beside you during your life’s difficult journeys. Thanks for giving.

mother and newbornI want to say thank you to all the mothers that I shared the gift of life with. I want to thank you for reminding me that practicing medicine is not a job, but a privilege that not many get to experience. Thanks for giving.

I want to thank my ICU patients who have shown me what a “fighting spirit” is, who have pushed me to the brink of collapse, and who have — at times — made me feel that I had witnessed a miracle. Thanks for giving.

I want to thank those that have perished in my care. I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your last moments, for providing me the chance to learn what death is all about, and for affording me the opportunity to share in the grief with your family. Thanks for giving.

volunteer handsI want to thank those that have donated an organ, money, time as a volunteer, or any other contribution to a patient, a hospital, an organization, or some other recipient. Thanks for giving.

I want to thank my fellow residents, my attendings, and all the nurses that make the stress, the uncertainty, and the challenge of my job enjoyable. I want to thank you for your insights, your critiques (good and bad), and your undying enthusiasm. Thanks for giving.

But most of all, I want to thank those that entrust their health to resident physicians at teaching hospitals. You are the backbone to our profession and, without you, we would be nothing. Thanks for giving.

Lastly, to everyone else whom I have yet to encounter, thank you in advance. For with every new patient I meet, I become a better, more complete doctor. Thanks for giving.

Obviously, this is only a sampling of all those that truly deserve “thanks.” From Day 1 of medical school until the day we retire, it is those around us that make our passion for medicine a reality. And more often than not, these are the ones that get taken for granted, overlooked, or even forgotten. So, this year, when given the opportunity to reflect and give thanks, think of those that have helped mold you into who you are. Think of your assistants, your mentors, your patients and the families for whom you care. They are the ones who have given us the greatest gifts.

And remember to say, “Thanks for giving.”


6 Responses to “Thanks (for) Giving”

  1. Marty Donovan says:

    Greg, Thank you for sharing. You have allowed me to adjust my focus on the many gifts I’ve received throughout my career and personal life that at times, go unnoticed and yet should be a consistent part of my giving of thanks. As a result of reading your article over and over and over again, my holiday will regain the essence of what Thanksgiving really should be.

  2. Hazel Fletcher says:

    I appreciate this thank giving message. You have blessed me and show me the things I need to give thanks for.

  3. Becky says:

    I really enjoyed your article! It puts life into perspective at this busy time of year! Thanks for sharing it so eloquently. As a nurse practitioner I agree! Thanks!

  4. Cecile says:

    I’ve been teaching FP residents and medical students for almost 15 years and it is refreshing to see this kind of reflection and appreciation. Often we (as educators) don’t see this for 10 years + after residents leave the residency and write back or visit. Kudos to you for having such provocative insight and sharing it with all of us.

  5. Vicky says:

    Great list of those to thank, but don’t forget all your family members, friends, and in some cases spouses and children that put up with missing you a lot during your training and even later while you are practicing medicine. It is their support that makes it all possible as well.

  6. The local CNA program in my area is really good, but I just wasn’t prepared for the amount of work it was going to entail. I really should have done a little more research before enbarking on something as major as the CNA. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t handle it, and dropped out before completing the final program.

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