I was sitting in the large conference room, staring at my Oral Boards schedule for the day and doing last minute review of facts in my head that I easily forget—and then quickly realizing how dumb that is at this point. Preparation time is over. Just breathe.
And then I took it all in. I began to appreciate where I was at this moment in time: sitting in a room, shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of absolute badasses. Looking around the room, I was wondering just how many lives have been saved, how much suffering has been alleviated, and how many people have been touched by all these fellow EM attendings—most young, all vibrant, full of nervous energy, but rockstars to the core, no doubt.
And on the secondary survey, I appreciated an even more poignant aspect—the room was very heterogeneous. There were a lot of women, easily 33-40%, if not approaching closer to 50. There were many shades of melanin—African-American faces, Caucasian, Asian, Latin, Middle Eastern, Indian and many more. I saw one woman who wore a beautiful hijab. There were men and women of all shapes and sizes who came from many corners of this planet, from differing cultures and certainly, differing religions. Everyone carried their own unique stories, their own paths to how they got there, their own lives filled with their own biases and formative events, but all collectively seated in a conference hall, slightly nervous—yet determined—as we were about to face the same board examination together. You saw smiles, handshakes, hugs, and even more heart-warming—you heard words of encouragement, and saw high fives, fist bumps, and pats on the shoulder from absolute strangers to one another. With this shared purpose, all differences melted away and became irrelevant.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are in this together. Lately on a well-known EM physician forum, there has been a lot of political controversy over recent events that have affected all of us in the US. Naturally, these events spurred vigorous debate and several strong emotions over topics ranging from gun violence, immigration policy, racial prejudice, and sexism, to name a few. But the tenor of those fierce discussions devolved in a disheartening way that erected barriers between us that caused some of us to lose sight of our commonality as healers.
As hard as we may try, it is difficult to divest medicine from politics since we see and treat such a vast cross-section of society. Rich, poor, young, old, foreign, native, insured, uninsured, straight, gay, male, female and so on—the tapestry is rich and we are tasked to mend it when the fibers are severed by the inevitability of disease or misfortune. Therefore, it is important to have those discussions. It’s important to disagree. It’s important to have all sides and all voices heard, no matter how repugnant you may feel they are. And hopefully out of all of that, solutions and compromises can be found because more likely than not— we all want the same things.
My point is this: no matter how much we can disagree with each other—maybe even to the point of reviling or disrespecting each other, which is sad, but only human—we all have a shared struggle. We all are Emergency Physicians positioned on the front lines of medicine with a front-row seat to society’s suffering. It is a very unique, humbling, and at times terrifying position to be in. We are all accomplished professionals who have made remarkable differences for strangers that we never knew until they arrived in our resuscitation bay drenched in fear and uncertainty. Regardless of how hurt and offended our feelings can be because of our differing opinions/biases, I know for sure that when the shit hits the fan, there’s not a damn one of you that wouldn’t dig in and help his or her fellow colleague to take care of patients in times of need no matter how much you disagreed with them—just like I know that there wasn’t a single one of us who didn’t want to help out in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Harvey, Irma, Maria, 9/11, or any other mass casualty/disaster scenario. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s something to be celebrated. That’s something that should give us tremendous pride. We are EM.
Now I speak for no one other than myself, but it’s the view that I have for all of you and all of my colleagues who will have just completed their Oral Boards. I see you ALL as my colleagues. You ALL are my brothers and sisters-in-arms. And while I will not agree with everything that you say or even stand for—and vice versa—I will not hesitate to help you or support you when called to. We are better and stronger together because ours is a shared struggle (I mean, judging by all the shared cases and experiences, we all practically work in the same ED!). And it is an honor to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and toe-to-toe with all of you. We cheer for each other, we encourage each other, we mourn with each other and we strive to improve together because WE are the vanguard that society turns to in their hour of greatest need. Let us not forget that.