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A Patient in a White Coat

A Patient in a White Coat
September 11th, 2015 was one of the most important days of my life so far. That day my classmates and I completed our first exam of medical school; stood up in front of our families, friends, mentors, and peers to recite the Hippocratic Oath; and were welcomed into the profession of medicine by being symbolically cloaked with our white coats. 

The white coat that we, as patients, know very well felt strange when I put it on. It felt like I was playing dress up. But it was with reciting the Hippocratic Oath while wearing the white coat that I began to feel that something inside of me was changing. The Hippocratic Oath is an oath that physicians take to agree to abide by certain ethical principles, and as we recited each principle, I couldn’t help but think about all of the physicians with whom I have crossed paths that upheld every one of these ideals, and also those that did not. I thought about how much of an impact these physicians have had on my life and what an enormous responsibility a physician takes on when they recite this oath. After the ceremony, I felt the weight of this responsibility and decided to take time to reflect on every part of this oath to ensure I will abide by it for the rest of my life.

So! Without further ado, I’d like to share some of the principles of the Hippocratic Oath with you all and a little bit of my reflections on them from the perspective of a patient.

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”
When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 11 years ago, I was in the happy, fluffy land of pediatrics. I didn’t understand what it felt like to have a physician not show warmth, sympathy and understanding. But the past few months have changed my perspective on how important this point of the oath is. When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease five months ago, I wasn’t shown much warmth, sympathy, or understanding. After being poked with needles, having vial after vial of blood taken from my body, having my neck covered with ultrasound gel and the cold machine pressed against my throat to get a look at my dysfunctional thyroid, I was informed that I likely had Graves’ Disease. While much of that visit was a blur, I can distinctly remember the way my doctor laughed when she told me that it was probably Graves’ Disease. You read that right. She laughed. And I can remember thinking how not funny this all was. I was trying to keep it light and cracking jokes here and there as I usually do, but to have this huge news dropped followed by a laugh was uncomfortable to say the least. So while yes, in this case, “the chemist’s drug” has made me feel better and my thyroid function is under control (for now), if I had been shown a little warmth, a little sympathy, or a little understanding, it might have made the journey a little less painful. 

Read the rest of my thoughts over on The Adventures of Anti-Wheat Girl!

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