Our privilege is sacred
Maternl believes that we who have taken the "Oath" to practice our sacred profession of medicine and we who have committed ourselves to the healing arts must do so with the imperative to respect the sanctity of health for all those we treat - with a sense of high privilege-for they are the flesh and blood and souls of our humanity - past, present and future - and we, by our choice, their guardians. Maternl through our writings, poems, personal thoughts and unique programs strives to promote these tenets.
Our words are songs
The impact of words is universal. Words particularly in the form of poetry can uniquely bridge the chasm of what to say and what is felt at significant times in all of our lives. Through metaphor and allusion, rhyming and meter; for eulogy and celebration; for love, understanding and hope, poetry matters significantly. Poetry enables me to ask why even when we already understand how. It permits me as a Doctor of Medicine, witness to the frailties of our humanity, to abet healing through the very core of what makes us human, our language and our personal emotions. It has been my platform to tell my 'stories', to honor my patients, my friends, my family and indeed, the essence of humanity, the "family of man". We as healthcare professionals have a need and obligation to care for others. Whether in academic, research or clinical practice, laboratory medicine or diagnostic imaging, the healthcare professionals' role is to bring comfort and to heal. From such healing comes self-reward, self-fulfillment and honor. If we are surrounded by despair and inequities and have the opportunity to help with their dissolution, it is our obligation to do so. Such has been my mission as a physician, an obstetrician, through my work and my poetry. If one person, one family, can be helped or can gather hope through the words we write and say, it can bring reward equal to the healing with our hands and minds. Hope is a singular gift we must never destroy in ourselves. Poetry is its instrument whose music can be its enabler. Words we write, words we read, and words we hear can serve as an invaluable source of healing. Words are songs from our hearts and can be "songs of hope, songs for hope"
"The physicians of the Hippocratic era called medicine 'The Art'. They knew that the care of their fellows was an act of creativity. They also recognized that each patient and his or her physician form a bond that is unique unto itself. That bond is the foundation upon which healing takes place." 1
Moses Maimonides, "the most important Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages" wrote "The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures... my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children...may I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain" 2
Both citations above speak of patients as "fellows" and "human[sic] creatures and children...". This must commit us who have taken the "Oath" to practice our sacred profession of medicine with an imperative to respect the sanctity of life and health for all those we treat-with a sense of high privilege- for they are the flesh and blood and souls of all humanity - past, present and future-and we, by our choice, their guardians.
There is no place for bias or prejudice or disparate care in our healthcare systems. I have tried in my half-century of caring for patients to follow this philosophy. Now, no longer in clinical practice, I have turned my passion and energies to creating this platform, Maternl©.
A brief personal thought:
"I am first a physician, a distant disciple of Aesculapius and Hippocrates3; a clinician, a teacher, and a student. I am an Obstetrician. I stand before my patients4 and facilitate their births. I share their joys; I feel their pains. Yet, caring for the well-being and the illnesses of patients and their families is to accept that medical science in all its depth and possibilities is not precise and that the human mind and flesh are perishable. We are today steeped in myriad medical technologies that in themselves bring hope to previously hopeless conditions and pathologies. Yet there remains inexorable suffering which accompanies failures and tribulations not only of these new medical technologies but of pervasive disparities which exist to deny access to and recipient of one standard of care for all, disparities defined by the social determinants of health:5 the paradox of our societies to both cure and cause pain which is real and evident.
I believe that we as practitioners and guardians of humanity's health, have been granted by oath and by ethic the privilege to examine and treat, to counsel and advise our fellow human beings and we must never abandon the souls of all patients seeking our care. It is my hope that Maternl© will propagate and preserve these tenets. "
Going forward (l)
Today are times of much despair
Yet times of great hope
To affirm our oath
As unfiltered reason and purpose
Rush in our blood
Every pulse a wave
Approaching distant shores
To leave our prejudice behind
To fade into vapors
As common as fog
And guide us to plant
Roots to bond our humanhood and
Vines to grow our brotherhood
As we go forth into tomorrow.
Michael R Berman, MD, MBI, FACOG
1 Sherwin Nuland, MD. From Preface, Parenthood Lost. Berman, 2001.
2 Excerpted from Dalhousie University Libraries: https://dal.ca.libguides.com/c.php?g=256990&p=1717827
3In Greek mythology, "Aesculapius, son of Apollo, the god of healing, was a famous physician. Hippocrates, was a member of the Asclepiadae- priest physicians whose origins may be traced to the mythical personage, Aesculapius"
4Obstare from the Latin meaning "To Stand before"; the root word of Obstetrics
5 "The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries." https://www.who.int/social_determinants/sdh_definition/en/
6 A poem defined by our times, September, 2020.