school and will shortly begin her residency. She’s currently working
in various hospitals in the Philadelphia area.
People who pursue medicine can be guaranteed several things beside
huge student loan repayments. First, the process is difficult and
demanding. My wife Christine is a nurse. My son Christopher is also a
Registered Nurse, staffing an emergency room in Orlando.
As difficult as the process is for doctors and nurses, it’s not lost
on them that they should always look for the humor of their
Christopher often tells me about the wild and crazy stuff he faces in
his ER. So many uninsured people use the ER as their personal doctor,
and they can’t be turned away. They expect you to put your stroke
victim on hold while you care for the scratch on their pinky finger.
Christopher, who we nicknamed “Gutt,” tells me that he has come to the
realization that he’ll touch anything as long as he has gloves on.
Jessica actually did a tour of duty at Christopher’s ER in east
Orlando, the city’s busiest.
After watching House, Grey’s Anatomy and a handful of other medically
related programs on television, you note that there is more humor in
it than you might imagine.
Knock-knock jokes are common. Knock-Knock. Who’s there? HIPPA. HIPPA
who? Sorry, I can’t tell you that.
Humor is the fuel that drives the engine of getting through a medical
education. By the time medical students finish one semester of study,
much of what they learned last semester is now obsolete. That’s why
it’s critical to keep the ax sharpened.
Christine used to regale me with stories about how she and the other
first year nurses always got the short end of the stick, whether it
was working all holidays to having to do the graveyard shift because
they were at the bottom of the medical food chain.
Sir William Osler was quoted in Women in Medicine (1968) that there
are three classes of human beings; men, women and women physicians.
Sir William has never had a chance to meet my daughter-in-law but I’m
sure he’d come away finding that Jessica is an intelligent and
thoughtful person, a trait that many physicians don’t possess. I feel
she would treat the patient, not the disease.
I’m not quite sure with Sir William meant but he also said “A
physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”
In the end, there are very few medications that exist that are better
than hope. One of the greatest gifts physicians can afford patients is
hope. Woody Allen once quipped “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t
want to be there when it happens.”
Hospitals tend to be scary places for a lot of us, either because of
the stuff that goes on inside or the bill that follows a stay. Groucho
Marx once joked that “A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter
Of all the talents I would hope my doctors would have, the greatest
would be their ability to listen and empathize with my problems. I’m
not there for a social visit.
Most patients will diagnose themselves if the doctor asks the right
questions. I would also hope that they will exercise some restraint.
Sometimes I think I’m personally keeping the pharmaceutical firms in
business. As a patient, I don’t see medicine strictly as science; it
is also art.
The secret of great doctoring (known only to their spouses and still
hidden from the general public) is that most things get better by
themselves. In the end, laughing is the cheapest medicine of all and
that’s why it’s so critical to find humor in the workplace.
Three pieces of advice for not just doctors but also patients: 1-
Never be afraid to say what’s in your mind. 2- Never be afraid to do
what’s in your mind. 3- Never take life advice from a facebook status.
In the end, perhaps Edward Everett Hale said it best. “In the name of
Hypocrites, doctors have invented the most exquisite form of torture
ever known to man: survival!”
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for
this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at