The compass of medicine

A friend posted “To Isaiah” on Facebook. The article comes from the commencement speech that Dr. Donald Berwick, former head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and new fellow at the Center for American Progress, gave at Harvard Medical School. It combines anecdote and advocacy.

There is a way to get our bearings. When you’re in a fog, get a compass. I have oneā€”and you do too. We got our compass the day we decided to be healers. Our compass is a question, and it will point us true north: How will it help the patient?

In my application to medical school, I wrote about my polestar. Too often, we couch the matter in ridiculous business terms. We ask “How will it change management?” instead of asking “How will it help the patient?” This financial question often rings out when someone suggests a test whose utility is unclear. It substitutes a business question for a moral question. I commit myself to asking moral questions when financial ones might suffice.

1 Comment »

Michael M. on June 29th 2012 in General

One Response to “The compass of medicine”

  1. Lib M. responded on 29 Jun 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    I read this article. You and another doctor friend both linked it on FB. It was poignant, and not that different from the question I have tried to ask as a teacher, replacing “patient” with “student”. We, too, are blocked or foiled or discouraged by financial constraints. It is sad that all too often, what is cheap out weighs what is good or right.

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