Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Healthy Attitudes

There is a Catholic Health Association conference going on from June 7-9 in New Orleans as reported by Catholic News Service. The speaker, Franciscan Br. Daniel Sulmasy, talked about the need of patients to feel a loving environment from individual health care givers.

The current health care mess in the United States is of great concern to us all. In a perfect world, there would be no illness in the first place. But short of that, in an almost perfect world there would be no doctors out for only the money and prestige.

I practiced veterinary medicine for 11 years, and I know how hard a job that is. It's got to be a lot harder for human doctors with the responsibility they carry. Yet money and material possessions are not the compensation that will make up for the hardships. It is doing what you have the gift for and want and love to do.

I got into vet medicine because I wanted to be a writer but knew that wouldn't pay the bills, at least to begin with. I was smart and got good grades in school, and I loved horses and other animals. While in undergrad, I came to know students who were totally dedicated to medicine and knew that was what they wanted for their life's work. I also knew people who got better grades who were in it for the big money. The competition for places at both med and vet schools is so intense that the differences are minute. Yet often the better grades (top of the list) got into vet school. Some of the dedicated ones kept trying when they didn't get in the first time. Some eventually got in, some didn't.

Now, these are not the only combinations that students come in. Some with the best grades are very selfless, but I wonder the proportion of those who become doctors for money instead of true care for others. And there is a more subtle force at work in which there is an understanding that these professional jobs will bring high pay. It overrides the notion that doctors are earning their pay mostly from sick persons who already are at a disadvantage. Sure, there is prevention, but it has not yet made enough headway to override the percentage of healthy to ill patients. I think the fact that some people are on insurance and some not also muddies the waters.

Perhaps if there is less compensation to doctors, the selfless ones would surface. Though you may think those with the lesser grades would be worse doctors, we are not talking huge margins in intelligence. And especially with common sense, the less brainy often have the edge. From what I've experienced, I'd rather have a compassionate doctor than a rich one.

Money is a huge factor in medicine because the demand is so much greater than the supply. It is a long haul through medical school. Fortunately things are now being done like training physician's assistants. Perhaps in those people we will find those who are dedicated to the sick and not to overindulgence. And of course I have not touched upon nurses, many of whom are wonderful people. We Americans are blessed to have the quality of all the people who research, teach and practice medicine. But, as the Pope has warned, there is all too often a material bent to our ventures which can deplete the love which Br. Sulmasy seeks.

No comments: