As a kid, I never dreamed of being a doctor.
I moved to California at the age of eight, when my dad (a PhD biochemist) was asked to work for a biotech company that, in 1987, thought they may have found a cure for HIV. (Spoiler alert: that didn’t pan out.) I didn’t understand the temporal bravery of the scientists working on what was then thought of as a homosexual disease, but I was so proud to know that my dad went to work every day trying to save people’s lives.
Within months of our cross-country move, my mom got a job at Stanford University Medical Center making sure insurers paid the hospital and the hospital paid the docs and the university…blah…blah…blah…accountingcontractsnumbersmath…so that, ultimately, the many thousands of patients – HUNDREDS OF WHOM I PERSONALLY KNOW – could get the best health care on the planet. I don’t understand accounting but I am so proud to know that my mom goes to work every day to make sure Stanford (and Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital) can deliver the highest quality care to my friends, neighbors, family, and the many people who come from across the country and around the world to seek health.
When I was a teenager and young adult, I worked in Stanford’s heart and lung transplant department (with the father of heart transplantation) where I met donor families, people waiting for a donor match, transplant recipients, nurses, doctors, office staff, schedulers, and yes even accounting folk who came to work every day because together, as a team, we saved people’s lives. Some of the most fulfilling “work” of my life happened when the nurses who supervised my clerical/office tasks asked me to go hang out with the younger transplant recipients – kids who were stuck in a hospital for weeks on end with no one but adults with whom to interact. I wouldn’t trade those conversations for the world. (You don’t know humility until you hear it from an adolescent fighting for their life.) I was invited to witness an organ harvest (sorry, technical term) and heart transplant all in-house (which does not often happen) and it ranks right up there with birthing my two sons on my list of top life experiences. I may not have understood why transplants worked, but I was so proud to work with a remarkable group of people who, with an astonishing amount of regularity, resurrected life from death. [PSA: if you’re not already, please learn how to register to be an organ donor.]
I moved on from my high school and college clerical jobs and pursued a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown where I took classes from amazing professors who taught me the policy and politics behind our most important health laws. (I mean, for reals…I took Politics & the Media from Paul Begala while he was still appearing on the (good) Crossfire. Could life have been any better for a policy/politics dork like me?) I began to understand that policies enacted by our government can truly impact people’s lives. I was so proud to have chosen a profession where I could – in my own, passion-driven way – help people live healthier, more productive lives.
Since I graduated from grad school, I have had the honor to do work – on my own and in my career – on behalf of the people like my dad and my mom and my coworkers and the many hundreds of thousands of people in California and across the country who go to work every day to try to make people’s lives better by optimizing their health.
Policy-making isn’t always pretty. Politics certainly isn’t. Medicine is often as much of an art as a science. And though I don’t always understand the science part of medicine, I am so proud to be part of a community of people who I KNOW strive to enhance, improve and save lives EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
***Disclosure: I’ve acknowledged, both in this post and on my “My House, My Rules” page, that I work for health care companies. That being said, I’ve not been asked to write this post, nor have I been compensated for it. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and only mine and do not reflect the views of my employers, colleagues or clients.***