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Monday, August 30th 2010

Service

The scripture yesterday in service was Matthew 25:31-46,

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

It was important for me to hear. Not the message of judgment necessarily, but the reminder of our obligation to serve.

Empathy is such an important part of medicine. It is favored in the medical school application process. And yet the decline in it as students and residents progress through training is well documented.

In part there’s a sense of inevitability with such. Familiarity weighs on such. Everything from callousing oneself to suffering to feelings that there is a lack of gratitude for your efforts to being tired to blaming patients for their illnesses. It all wears away the idealism and dedication to service that I think most medical students sincerely enter the profession with.

I’m guilty of it as most. And so it was good to be at church on Sunday.

I’m incredibly blessed. Not least because I am in a position to serve everyday. And I hate losing sight of that. I hate sitting in the call room at 2 am and getting a flood of pages from the ER. Those phone calls are a medical record number and some demographics and my annoyance at having more heaped onto my plate to do that night. All because some guy or gal got into their car after having too much to drink or fell off a bar stool or got into a fist fight.

There’s nothing to those judgments and my annoyance. These are people in the end who need my help. However they got to my care, here they are and I have the potential to do them great service and maybe affect their life for the better.

I want service to be central to me being a doctor. This isn’t just a job. These aren’t just hoops I have to jump through to complete training. These aren’t just operations.

These are chances to change lives; to serve.

Now just to take a deep breath late into my call nights and remember such.

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