As I write this, I'm on a bus heading home from another trip to our Nation's Capitol wth my parents. I remember when I was in grade school, spending Easter vacation walking all round the city learning everything from American History, to civics and government, and much more.
On this occasion, the most valuable lesson I learned was not from a museum, but was from acts of honor, kindness, and reverence. The photo above was takes at the Air Force Memorial. What appears to be happening is that an active duty serviceman is giving a tour to a veteran. The emotions I observed included smiles and laughter to seriousness and somberness.
This encounter triggered many questions having to do with my profession. Why aren't older physicians, more veteran physicians, and retired physicians treated with more respect by our own? I have heard newly minted physicians say that they cannot wait until Dr. X finally retires so that they can increase their own clientele.
What would happen if an image like the above happened? A sort of mutual mentorship experience occurred between less experienced physicians and veteran physicians. A two way interaction where the veteran physician can pass along the wisdom of their experience, while the less experienced physician brings their enthusiasm and reminds the veteran physician of the idealism they used to have.
Don't get me wrong, many organizations have been talking about programs like this for years, and some successful programs have actually been implemented. But, for the most part, in medicine, youth is celebrated, and increasing age is not. But, just like the military, I believe that medical profession needs to celebrate our own veteran heroes.
For those long time practicing physicians and retired physicians, thank you for your service to medicine, and for service to your patients. You have not been recognized enough for the difference you have made to your local community. I challenge anyone who reads this to just say "Thank You" to our veteran heroes!
(This essay is dedicated to my father, who is my hero, and who retired in 2011 following 33 years in solo private practice as an otolaryngologist [surgeon & ear, nose, and throat specialist]. He continues to teach me, even today, and I appreciate his wisdom every day.)