A young cardiology fellow reveals in a letter to his patients that it was being privy to their vulnerability that allowed him access to his own.
Chiduzie Madubata, MD reflects on his interactions as a cardiology fellow
To my beloved patients and your families,
Over the years, it has been an incredible experience and honor to be allowed to enter into your world. It is a world that I know few people are privy to, and it is an intimate world where the deepest questions about life tend to arise. I know that when you are confronted with sickness that leads you into this world, it can be incredibly scary. For many of you, it is a world where you are made the most vulnerable, and where your potential recovery is based on what a person that you may not know chooses to do. I understand how disorienting and powerless that this may make you feel, which is all the more reason why I carry deep gratitude in my heart for the times that you allowed me to come into your world during my training to become a physician.
When I started out on this journey, the most stressful thing to me was considering that I would start to interact with patients as part of their care. I felt like I was trespassing onto the sacred ground of your hearts, places where only a few privileged people were allowed to enter through family ties. I wanted to believe that I was worthy of your trust with every interaction I had with each of you.
I know that when I started, I was a rookie, figuring out how to ask questions about your health to get the information I needed to care for you, but also to not make it feel as if I was prying too much. Through your interactions, the art of medicine became more of a theme, as I realized that part of the art was learning how to develop a therapeutic relationship with you through spending time with you and asking you the right questions. What I did not realize at the beginning, however, was that in entering into a relationship with you and gaining access to your vulnerability, I became vulnerable as well.
It was in those moments of vulnerability that I learned about the humanistic aspect of medicine and that part of my development in becoming a physician was learning how to feel things on a deeper level. You were not afraid to let me into the most painful moments of your lives, and you invited me to experience all that comes through these moments, out of deep trust.
Whether it was being hugged by you out of appreciation even after I told you about a terminal diagnosis, or whether it was me sobbing after saying a final goodbye to a young cancer patient who touched me and numerous physicians and nurses with his grace while dealing with his illness, I realized that there was a purpose in that pain in terms of deepening my understanding of humanity and learning how that understanding could help me to care for you.
You also allowed me to celebrate with you in the most joyful experiences of your lives. Whether it was being on call in the CCU when you got a call that you were going to receive a new heart after extended time on the transplant waiting list, or seeing you rejoicing after you got news that your cancer was in remission, it was these moments that caused me to continue to have hope for you, even when everything else was pointing to the contrary.
It is this incredible tension between joy and pain that comes to the forefront in medicine depending on how the medical situation looks, and this tension is wrapped up in these moments of vulnerability that are usually kept close to the chest. However, in your hope to get better, you believed in my abilities, and you allowed me to tap into that vulnerability in a way that could allow me to help you. I realize how deep and sacred that is, and I am forever humbled and grateful to you for allowing me to enter into your world.
Now, as I finish my training, I am reflecting on the thousands of interactions I have had with all of you over the years, and I am realizing that who I am as a physician would not be remotely possible without you. Your willingness to let me into your world, even when it was scary and frustrating, has shaped me in ways that are still being revealed to me as I write this.
I know that letting me in was your choice, and the fact that you chose to grant me access into your inner worlds is incredibly humbling. Who am I to be made privy to some of the deeper aspects of your lives that are usually reserved for your loved ones who have known you much longer than I have? But you believed in me, in the hope that my knowledge could help you to recover from your illness.
I look back on these interactions, and my heart is full knowing that your lives were changed in part because you let me into them. My heart is full because I know that with your willingness to let me into your world, you helped me not only become a better doctor, but a better person. I was made a better person than when I first met you, and for that, I am truly grateful.
As I prepare to enter into the next phase of practicing as an attending, I will take these experiences with me and reflect on them. I will stand amazed by how someone like me, a stranger to many of you before you met me, could be allowed to enter into your world in the hope of you getting better. I can honestly say that because of these interactions, we were all made better because of them. I pray that as I continue, this sacred trust that you have entrusted to me will always be justified through how I care for you.
A grateful physician
Chiduzie Madubata is a cardiology fellow. This post appeared on KevinMD.com.
This article was first published on MedPage Today and reprinted with permission from UBM Medica. Free registration is required.