On June 3, I took the last exam of my first year of medical school. Countless college-ruled papers, keyboard clicks and catecholamines later, I found my way to the “Submit Exam” button. With the push of my finger, with the touch of my mouse, these past 10 months would be over, a written chapter finished, a milestone carved. Sudden relief nudged me forward, my second digit slowly pressing down. Click. And just like that — I was one-fourth a doctor.
A few weeks later, I was on Delta Flight 466 to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, to participate in Save a Child’s Heart’s medical internship. SACH is a nonprofit organization operating out of Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. Regardless of identity marker, SACH performs free, lifesaving heart surgeries for children who do not have the access or the financial resources to afford care. As a medical intern, I observed surgeries, saw catheterizations and studied echocardiograms. I sat in on surgical consults, Israeli medical student lectures and morning rounds. Most excitingly, I stayed at the SACH house — a facility about 10 minutes away from the hospital where all patients and their guardians live while being treated.
It doesn’t take an internship to realize that we treat people, not patients. It doesn’t take a program to understand that finite ailments and medical histories and surgical notes offer minimal insight into the infinite depths of the humans we treat. But admittedly, we can get lost in facts. Somewhere between the cerebral and spiritual, we become methodical. Somewhere between the cortical and mindful, we become robotic. Between the body and soul, logic narrows our philosophical insight. Science blurs us. Statistics make numeric what stories should make into connection.
SACH was a beautiful reminder that our patients walk out of hospital halls, step out beyond office walls, into a world undivided by organ systems, into a world undefined by weak hearts, stenotic valves and regurgitant flaps. The heart exists beyond the anatomical. The heart beats beyond its mediastinal borders. There is fullness to their lives. There is fullness to our lives. There is wholeness to who we are.
This excerpt originally ran in the Winter 2017 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.