Charles W. Olson, Jr. 2014-07-30 02:44:15
“Have Stethoscope, Will Travel.” 1995. I remember the excitement of being a young physician in residency, ready to head to the mission field in Guatemala.I was training at St. Anthony Family Medicine Residency in Oklahoma City, thankful for God-given ability to pursue medicine and a wife equally focused on sharing medicine as a ministry. Physician . . . Patient. The purest of medical interactions. No paper chart. No EHR. Just a stethoscope and an attempt to examine and diagnose without diagnostic imaging, using all of the exam skills obtained during the 3rd year of medical school. The complexities of communication through a non-medical translator. I remember three lessons learned during that trip that still apply to my practice today: Reassurance - Many smiling mothers brought their children to see us, concerned about them being sickly, having decreased appetites, or losing weight. Active, playful, healthy-appearing children. I learned from the interpreter that the mothers just wanted reassurance that the American doctors thought that their kids were OK, and most just wanted children’s vitamins, concerned about nutrition. Cleanliness - Despite some families living in shacks built of random pieces of cardboard and wood, and dirt floors, the homes and children were immaculate. The children had white clothing that was spotless, and recalling the brownish water everywhere, to this day I don’t know how the mothers accomplished it. Cost - I was surprised to learn that the patients were charged to see the physicians and have medications dispensed. I was told, “If it doesn’t cost them, then to them it has no value.” They were charged a pittance, the equivalence of 15 cents, and the money was returned to the church and its medical ministry. I try to remember these lessons learned as I work in the Emergency Department, and try to recall the joy and limitless energy of a young physician. “The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.” - Sir William Osler Charles W. Olson, Jr., MD Drumright, Oklahoma
Published by Oklahoma State Medical Association. View All Articles.
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