December 16 2017
by Neel Desai, M.D.
“True tragic. The proper composition of your support team is not “colleagues and family.” It is “friends, colleagues and family.” Honest friendships can save your life and isolation can snatch it away.” – Dr. Mark Reid (via Twitter).
The above was from a physician I follow and recommend following on Twitter. He was referring to a surgeon who committed suicide because he didn’t reach out to a friend, colleague or family member in his darkest moments. Dr. Reid makes a valid point we talk about often here at The Happy Doc with regards to our mission in finding supportive networks for being a successful student/intern/resident/physician. Too often, in cases like these, physicians or students feel isolated, overwhelmed, misunderstood, and have no place to turn. He makes the point, that while colleagues and family are important, what may be just as equally important, if not more, is friends or “your person”.
My wife is a fan of the medical show Grey’s Anatomy. I can only tolerate certain minutes of it without wanting to medically critique it (which is why my wife won’t let me watch it with her, as I “ruin it for her”—mission accomplished–and I get to go watch my sports—Winning!) . I am dating myself, but I remember watching shows like House, Scrubs, and ER, as well as older shows like St.Elsewhere and even M.A.S.H. when I was a kid. As much I complain about some of the unrealistic medical scenarios and the TV soap operaification of medicine in shows like Grey’s, there are certain common themes in all of these shows. These common threads apply to what is happening in medicine today and is a lesson learned by any successful and fulfilled physician. In one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, fellow surgical interns Christina Yang and Meredith Grey tell each other “You’re my person”. It’s similar in other shows with Turk and J.D. in Scrubs, Wilson and House in House, and so on…
We call it different things: bros, buddies, buds, (for men), besties, BFFs, confidante, crew, posse, pals, peeps, girls/girlfriends (for women), kindred spirits, fellow life travelers–all to describe the same thing. A true trusted friend who is there not just for the easiest and best moments of your life, but the ones who are there in your darkest moments, when the proverbial shit truly hits the fan. It’s that friend or person who you can call at 3 a.m. and will be there for you for whatever you need, whenever you need it, no questions asked. How often do we get that in medicine? If you talk to most successful physicians, they will tell you they probably had at least one great mentor, but also a true friend who always had their back, and they may not even be in the medical field. The problems arise when students, interns, and doctors feel isolated, unsupported, and feel that no one else can relate to what they are going through at a difficult moment, unless they have gone through something similar. When students and physicians don’t have supportive networks—that is when it leads to tragic cases of suicide, depression, burnout, substance abuse, etc…
Dr. Pamela Wible (who we have interviewed on the podcast and profiled as a Medical Influencer) has dedicated her life to helping students and physicians who have felt isolated and disillusioned. She has helped them to understand they are not alone and talks about this with some of the retreats she has hosted. Check out her video from our Hidden Curriculum.
One of our missions at The Happy Doc
is not just to create a new mentorship network, and of new collaborations, but also to be the spark to form new life long friendships. Friendships that can transform lives and careers. Friendships that can transform families. Friendships that can transform patients’ lives. Friendships that can transform communities. Friendships that can save lives. Friendships that can prevent another statistic. Friendships that can transform medicine.
Taylor and I have been fortunate to become good friends over the past year while through navigating through a lot of our dysfunctional medical system. We have lamented the disconnectedness of our society and medicine today. But we have hope. We have seen how forming new networks and connecting healthcare professionals in the medical space to spark new friendships and collaborations has created so much joy, hope, inspiration, and excitement. And then we get excited when we talk to each other and it fuels us to do even more and better. Isn’t that so much better than an abusive system that beats you down, insults you, takes you for granted, treats you like crap, and discourages you from being yourself? Wouldn’t it be so much more fun, exciting, and joyful to just have each other’s backs, teach, learn, and have a life filled with joy and purpose? We see a new way, a better way. And it starts with such a simple concept – “finding your person”.
Who’s Your Person? Why? And if you don’t have one? Come join us. We can help find you one or try to be one for you!
Neel Desai is a family physician, active contributor to The Happy Doc, and still claims Meredith Grey should have died like 50 times already. Follow him on Twitter @drneel1973.