My thirty-second medical school graduation anniversary

I check my upcoming postion

With a bunch of Siouxland physicians.

            I’ll pause for a year,

            The clause says right here,

Hence my walkabout expedition.



A cold has me, with coughing, aching, and sore throat.  My voice deepens into the subwoofer range.  But I get up early for my weekly three-minute radio segment.  I get out the word for skin cancer.  After the show, I head straight to the hospital.

I am chairman pro tem for the Privileges and Credentials Committee at St. Luke’s this morning.  The title carries more importance than the actual position. 

Confidentiality prevents me revealing which doctors we talk about, or why we talk about them.  In the final analysis, doctors come and go and technology changes.  Some docs retire sooner, others later, some just stop being doctors.  Each one has a back story with enough fodder for a dozen novels.  Doctors come from far and wide to work in Sioux City, some longer than others.  We review physicians who are good, solid healers and hard workers. At the end of the meeting I talk about my career plans.

After that meeting I’m reading the Sioux City Journal funnies when another doctor comes in, about to make a career change, too, and we talk about our plans for the future.  We look at the truth of loving your work so much that you have trouble saying no, then have difficulty because you work too long and too hard.

At ten I meet with our CEO about details on the non-compete clause.  The coming break up is so amicable that I’ll still take call next Christmas and I’ll still do rounds at my nursing home, and corporate will still do my billing. 

At eleven I visit the Community Health Center, where I hope to start work on Jun 1 2011.  Currently they have six physicians and six mid level practitioners.  As I walk through the halls I greet people whom I know socially and professionally.  I keep saying to my tour guide “Everything s/he says about me is true, let’s get past innuendo and denial.”  I had no idea that I’d know more than half the staff.

At the end of the tour I realize I’ve worked hard for the last quarter century to be easy to get along with, and my reputation precedes me.  It’s a good feeling.

From change comes chaos; the greater the change, the greater the chaos.  The greater the chaos, the greater the chance that someone will get hurt.  I find reassurance in the fact that my upcoming move will involve few strangers. 

Later, starting to suit up for my workout at the gym when daughter Chaya calls.  She needs my recipe for chicken mole (pronounced MOlay).  I tell her how wonderful it is to hear the music back in her voice, and she tells me that the dance is coming back into her step.

Almost three years since her climbing accident, she continues to improve.

I haven’t finished suiting up when a recruiter calls about a two-week job offer for a town in Wyoming.

I did my residency in Casper, Wyoming, and I met Bethany there.  We liked the Mountain West, and we’re looking forward to going back.  While there, I thoroughly enjoyed moonlighting at the town in question; I got great education and I got paid well.

In the locker room after my workout I talk with a man who has also just finished exercising.  Three years ago, he retired after 32 years with UPS.  A year and a half ago he got a blood clot (he doesn’t say in his legs or lungs) because he had been inactive too long; he started working out then.

I don’t talk about my work situation; I like to keep quiet about being a doctor as long as possible. We talk about how a person has to keep going and can’t stop.

I graduated from medical school thirty-two years ago today.  The commencement speaker’s speech stuck with me: every morning look in the mirror and say “I don’t know” and get good at saying it.  Write down what you need to know about the few true medical emergencies on 3×5 cards and carry them till you have them memorized.  Medicine is a harsh and jealous mistress. 

His words ring as true now as ever.

When you love something as much we physicians love medicine, you risk loving too much.


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