Helping patients and community
December 13, 2016
Fans of John Oliver, host of "Last Week Tonight" on HBO, may have seen his recent rant about how miserable the year 2016 was. In the colorful language of late-night television, he and a parade of guests bade farewell to what they called the worst year ever.
The past year has, indeed, been a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" year, from worldwide natural disasters and refugee tragedies, to U.S. racial, socioeconomic and cultural conflicts, to a polarizing and contentious presidential election. We may share John Oliver's sentiments and be glad to say goodbye to 2016 – but there are other, better ways to assess the year, particularly to realize how fortunate those of us who work in health care are, even at this time of great stress.
It is a special joy to work in health care. We have the satisfaction of helping patients and their families, improving communities and public health, teaching and training the next generation of health professionals and advancing biomedical science. Every single member of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and Division of Health Sciences contributes to these missions.
We have the opportunity, and in fact the privilege, to improve human existence one patient, one family and one community at a time. We do this through direct clinical care; teaching physicians, physician assistants and a range of health professionals, conducting clinical and biomedical research that changes medical practice; and improving the quality, access and cost of health care. We do this with passion, we do this with conviction, we do this with expertise and we do this together.
That last bit about improving human existence together is particularly important at this time of celebrating the winter holidays, reflecting on the year past and looking to the year ahead. I am personally thankful for the opportunity to work with a group of dedicated, expert, caring, inclusive, supportive colleagues who come to work every day trying to make the world a better place.
I am amazed daily at the incredible acts of caring demonstrated by these colleagues: a special service for a patient, a kind word to an overwhelmed medical student, a willingness to cover the duties of someone in stress, a card for someone who has suffered a loss, a brilliant idea for how to improve who we are and what we do. We have the great fortune to be part of an organization whose members not only take care of the world around us, but take care of each other.
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For those reasons, I choose to see all the good of the past year, all of the many ways the School of Medicine and Division of Health Sciences have countered the misery we see on the news every day. I choose to see all of the random acts of kindness that have brought a smile or a tear of joy to the face of someone in need. We are thankful for the opportunity to serve our community, state, nation and the world, and especially to improve health and health care in Nevada.
Thomas Schwenk, M.D. is professor of family medicine, dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and vice president of the Division of Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno.