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Virtually everyone who goes into healthcare does so based on some variation of this theme – to help people, to make a positive contribution to mankind. 

Black mortarboard, blue gown, yellow tassel

Noble aspirations, each and every one.  During my 35 years in healthcare I have come to understand that what separates those who are really committed, and those who treat this as some throw away explanation, is staying true, never ever, not even for one day, letting the healthcare job become just another job, just a way to pay the rent, feed and clothe the family and buy the trinkets. 

I have a friend.  His name is Frank.  Every time I talk with Frank I am reminded that our industry would be better off if there were more Franks around.  Frank is a bearded, bow-tie wearing, general surgeon who soon will mark his 50th year as a physician. 

Frank had a brother.  They were close.  When the brother was twelve and a half, he died of cystic fibrosis.  Not too much was known about that disease then and it was always fatal fairly early on.  Today, some kids survive into their late 30s or mid-40s, but it is still a tough disease and a lung transplant is usually required to prolong life. 

Frank’s brother clearly meant a great deal to him but he died during Frank’s first year in medical school.  And here is how I know that.  

The day Frank graduated from medical school he went to the cemetery, to his brother’s grave.  By the headstone, he dug a little hole and placed the tassel from his mortar board in the hole and covered it up with dirt. 

And then he pledged his career to his brother, to do the right thing, to be the best physician he could be.  And to help people.

Frank has accomplished all that and more.  He isn’t perfect, he has made mistakes, but he has always tried to do his best for the patients under his care; to help them, to make a positive contribution to their well being.  He has tried, every day, to live up to the pledge he made so long ago. 

His brother would be proud.