Dr. David Williams serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home, which together form the ambulatory division of UnityPoint Health.
I was listening to a podcast the other day that featured Hollywood director Brian Grazer — known for the movies Splash and A Beautiful Mind. In the interview, Grazer says he once made a goal for himself to get to know one new person every single day.
That’s a pretty lofty goal for most people because the faces we see on a daily basis don’t vary much between our friends, family and co-workers.
As physicians, my UnityPoint Health colleagues and I have the unique privilege of not only meeting new people every day, but also creating lifelong, meaningful relationships.
Relationships built on trust, gratitude, empathy and compassion that often expand across generations of families.
Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. My mom and dad thought it would be a great idea because you could be your own boss, set your own hours, do your own thing and be in your own shop.
And that’s completely not what medicine is like today. But for me, having a space to hear about and learn from my patients’ stories and life experiences, so I can be of help to them, has always stuck.
We are in this profession to care for and about people. Trying to help someone get better and stay better goes beyond performing lab tests and marking off developmental check lists. There is more to medicine than performing a procedure or prescribing a medication.
It’s about making care more personal, too.
As a doctor, people assume you’re smart. People know you can use big words. They want uncomplicated and accurate information that pertains to them, presented in a way that makes them feel like they matter to you.
But what really makes an impression on a patient is when a doctor treats them like a person — like an equal, not a diagnosis in a textbook.
I like to talk to people. I want them to know they’re significant. As a pediatrician, every time I saw a new patient in my practice, I always made it a point to thank their parent after our visit to express my gratitude for allowing me to treat their child.
When we use our time to engage with the people we serve, we increase the odds of them having a good outcome. Connecting with patients through genuine, compassionate care and acknowledging their experiences and emotions allows us to empower them to be proactive with their health.
We also afford ourselves the chance to be a better doctor — to find out what is important to patients and make sincere connections that benefit their care. Not too many people get that chance. As we get busy and stressed in our day-to-day work, too many take this gift for granted.
Meaningful interactions with my patients and their parents was the differential advantage that allowed me to build a successful pediatric practice.
It’s also what kept me going during times when I was tired, stressed, or grumpy.
Listening to our patients, giving them a chance to tell their stories and recognizing the common humanity between you and the person on your exam table may take a little more time, but the rewards are huge.
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