I am perhaps the proudest a sophomore could be of her undergraduate institution, and every year, I have the incredible opportunity to share my passion for Hendrix through a little event called Phone-A-Thon.
Yes, I see you cringing. I apologize if an overly enthusiastic student such as myself has called you just as you’ve sat down to dinner to tell you my story and ask for your support. I promise, some conversations feel as awkward for us as for you.
Sometimes, though, there’s that conversation that flourishes – that reminds me not only why I love interacting with alumni, but why I’m passionate about sharing my passions with strangers at all. The conversation where someone just “gets it.”
Tonight, an elderly alumni struck up a conversation with me about my minor, Medical Humanities, which explores the human aspects of medicine. I soon found myself sharing with him my role on ImproveCareNow’s Patient Advisory Council and my IBD advocacy efforts. I never expect anyone to have heard of IBD or, if so, to appreciate my passion – but here was someone who just “got it:” he has several friends with the disease.
This, on the same day that we talked about Miralax in Organic Chemistry class, and a girl on my campus approached me to let me know my Huffington Post article really inspired her family because her little brother has Ulcerative Colitis? Today has been a laundry list of unexpected happenstance. (Did you know that the main chemical compound in Miralax can not only relieve my constipation, but also contribute to a Suzuki coupling reaction? Neither did I! Found that out while drinking my daily Miralax-Gatorade breakfast oddly enough.)
Back to the story, we struck up a conversation about the significance of strong communication skills in medicine. He shared with me the story of a doctor of his who takes the time to sit down and ask him a simple question at the start of each appointment: “How’s life?” Not in a friendly-opening sort of way, but in a genuine I-am-truly-curious sort of way. Five extra minutes of this doctor’s time, he shared, give him that extra push to stick to his treatment regimen. Five minutes every three months remind him that his doctor truly cares about him, which in turn, makes him truly care about his treatment. In turn, I shared the story of a resident who treated me during my initial hospital stay and shared her experiences living with Crohn’s with me. She is the single most important factor that determined my attitude from that day forward. She took the time to return to my room after rounds and really listen to my feelings about my diagnosis. Fifteen minutes of her time changed my life as much as my diagnosis.
Five, ten, or fifteen minutes of just listening can profoundly change patient outcomes. It’s incredible, but I believe it’s true.
ImproveCareNow believes it too – creating innovations and changing the system to give every patient a voice and the chance to feel heard – and conversations like the one tonight remind me just how proud I feel to be a part of an organization dedicated to giving voices to young IBD patients and their families all around the country and England.
In the words of a wise old stranger, “It’s not just medicine that will cure people. It’s doctors who will listen, believe, and give hope.”