One of the beauties of being a physician is that not only does your world encompasses the clinical aspects of health, but also involves many other disciplines as well. Often people assume that a doctor’s influence ends at the clinic or hospital door, however that is far from the truth. Promoting health is a very comprehensive idea and much of what we can do for people has nothing to do with seeing them face to face.
The thing that has me jazzed the most right now is work that I’m assisting with in northern Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. I visited there last year with a medical mission and we conducted a clinic in one of the rural areas close to the Dominican border. No medical professional had been to this area of Haiti in 20 years! Needless to say we encountered people with very significant health issues. This next week I return to the same part of the country with a group associated with the children’s hospital of Port-au-Prince and the goal of establishing a sustainable clinic in the area, potentially continually staffing the clinic with doctors and residents. Going into these needy areas of the world and being able to use the influence and knowledge that comes with being a physician is incredibly rewarding. Even if I never see a patient in Haiti again, the infrastructure we create will help people for years to come.
Another area outside the mainstream of clinical medicine is medical research which really boils down to determining the causes and treatments of disease. This has not been a large part of my career up until this point, but I am now actively working on a few projects. The prospect of figuring out something new, or finding the answer to some problem, is a very gratifying endeavor which many physicians end up spending all or a significant part of their careers pursuing.
Public health, advocacy, medical informatics, drug & device design and medical education are all other avenues which a physician can influence the world beyond their clinical duties. Each doctor seems to find his or her passion in something, hopefully something great!