I scratched my head when I pulled into the parking lot of the hospital clinic. For a Sunday morning, there were a lot of cars. As I watched, a young couple — I presumed they were husband and wife — make their way toward the front entrance, there was a certain eagerness about them. They looked hopeful.

Then I remembered. Of course — it must be the weekend for the fertility clinic! Once a month, dozens of couples come to the clinic to be artificially inseminated.  Or at least that’s what I figured. . I’ve never actually asked what goes on in the clinic.

The hopefulness of the young couple set against the plain, somewhat gloomy-looking hospital building gave me an odd feeling. Those solid concrete walls enclose almost every type of pain and suffering imaginable.

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I began to wonder, What happened to hope?

I believe that medical centers should be places that offer great opportunity — where you go to have your disease cured, your pain relieved, your broken arm set, even to have your life saved. And when saving a life isn’t possible, they should be places where you go, finally, to have your suffering palliated, your hand held and where you come to die embraced by the compassion of men and women who have dedicated their lives to doing such work.

Sound a bit “pie in the sky”?  Maybe it shouldn’t! I’ve been a great proponent of physicians rebranding themselves.  I think it’s time for doctors to push back against the growing tide of public dissatisfaction. We need to humanize ourselves by telling our stories about what really happens behind the stethoscope.

Hospitals are facing the same crisis that doctors are facing. .Instead of the respected community institutions they used to be, today’s medical centers are under increasing fire. Trying to provide essential services under Medicare’s threatening gun and hounded by malpractice lawyers, hospitals are losing their identity to a  staggering degree. 

With so much great opportunity for improvement, let’s get the focus back on providing high quality, patient-centered, no-strings-attached care for our communities.

Do we have to wait for some guy in a suit with an MBA to spur us to action?

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