Friendship, repetition, and the truth

What does it mean to be a doctor?  It means doing what Dr. Elizabeth Collins did.  This story has to do with smoking, a habit that kills many people each year in the United States.  Dr. Collins described it in this way:

“One of my best friends from high school had smoked for years.  Every time we visited I encouraged her to quit and pick up healthier behaviors like exercise instead.  She eventually got married to a great guy, but he also smoked.  I pushed on with my crusade, to the point I was sure that they’d stop calling me, but finally she called to tell me she was pregnant.  She and her husband had quit smoking, had begun exercising and losing weight and had become committed to living healthier lives due to her pregnancy.  I gave her an A+ and told her I couldn’t be more proud of her and her husband.”

Dr. Collins was a wise friend who knew some facts and cared enough to share her insights in a thoughtful manner, repetitively and assertively (not aggressively) until the program worked.  She was a loving teacher.

Dr. Collins for most of this story was not a doctor.  Now she is and she is still up to providing wonderful medical care. Just last year she was elected the best teacher of third year medical students at Emory in the obstetrics and gynecology department.

The word “doctor” comes from the Latin verb “doceo, docere, doctavi, doctus” the verb to teach.  An important part of being a doctor is to recognize the importance of taking the time to teach.

This suggests that each of us can be a doctor.  And this, most certainly, is the truth.  At times each of us IS our brother’s or our sister’s keeper.

Each of us can play a positive role in learning what it takes to remain healthy, what to do when a disease occurs and what to do in an emergency. We can teach others what we have learned and we can incorporate healthy practices into our lives so that we teach by example.  We can pass it on.

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia