The “Inspiration For Us All” section speaks for itself. What’s really important. What is it that motivates us to do what we do. Sure, science is important. Staying up-to-date with reliable healthcare information is important for every doctor. But science alone is not enough. We all need something more. Something that never gets old or goes out of date. Something that will outlive us all. I invite you to join me on a short journey of discovery, a journey on which all are welcome, a journey in search of inspiration for us all. As we prepare to embark on this journey, let’s take a few moments to build a firm foundation in our minds eye. A foundation from which to launch ourselves, and a safe haven for our return. “All Are Welcome”, by Marty Haugen, helps us imagine what this will look like.

As Americans, all of us should recognize the words Thomas Jefferson put into the Declaration of Independence, in 1776. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  • That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the
    consent of the governed
  • That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

Unfortunately, in 2020, the era of COVID-19, some among us, have chosen to focus their energy on furthering self-serving individual interests rather than working towards the common good. COVID-19 is not a hoax. It is a serious world-wide pandemic. To protect the most vulnerable among us against this serious disease we all need to follow the best advice of serious, experienced, well informed medical professionals. That advice includes recognizing that:

1. This viral illness disproportionately affects the most vulnerable among us, which includes individuals older than their mid-60s, those individuals with serious underlying medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart problems, kidney disease and immune system deficiencies are at particular risk, as are individuals who are economically disadvantaged.

2. The virus is primarily spread by transmission of respiratory droplets, expelled from the noses and mouths of infected individuals. These individuals may be completely asymptomatic and not even be aware they are sick. Proximity to an infectious
individual closer than 6 feet, for more than 15 minutes, increases the risk of transmission.

3. Most importantly, wearing a face covering and frequently disinfecting one’s hands with soap and water or a 70% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, significantly reduces transmission risk.

The Good Samaritan by Jared Smalls

Make no mistake, promoting and protecting individual freedoms is important. The free will of our individual decision making is fundamental to determining the outcome of the decisions we make, both the outcomes we experience individually, as well as the collective, societal ones. This truth is most clearly expressed by an individual many of us consider to be the ultimate human authority figure. It is written in the Holy Bible, Lk 10:25-37.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the law?” He replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
28 “You answered correctly,”Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
31 A priest happen to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by the other side.
33 but a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
34 he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 the next day he took out two danerii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was the neighbor to the man who fell into the
hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We do well when we heed that advice. In the following YouTube video we are reminded how we should behave towards one another.

Throughout history, wise men and women have relied on the guidance of those whose wisdom and advice have withstood the test of time. In medicine, it is no different. Over the years, countless medical school graduates, including my own, WVU Medical School Class of 1981, recited the Oath of Maimonides, a 12th century rabbi, philosopher and physician. His words are as sage today as they were then

Oath of Maimonides

“The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all time; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children. May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.

Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.

Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today. Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.”

Unexpected life events bring a measure of challenge into the lives of men and women in all walks of life. Certainly the lives of surgeons are replete with sleepless nights, agonizing decision making, and humbling experiences. No matter ones religion, I expect each, in our own way, prays for guidance, and for the welfare of our patients. I find that praying with patients and their families, when requested, can be comforting.

As difficult as life’s challenges may be, when it feels like one is on a mission of a higher power, a “calling” if you will, sustaining strength and load-lightening relief are almost always close at hand. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have witnessed the hope sustaining power of shared experience. And so, I too was uplifted by the soulful message in song recently recorded on YouTube by the NYC virtual choir and orchestra. Truly, a shared experience, which I would like to share with you.

How Can I Keep From Singing by Robert Wadsworth Lowry

My life goes on in endless song above earth’s lamentation, I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, While to that rock I’m clinging. Since love prevails in heaven and earth How can I keep from singing?
While though the tempest ‘round me roars, I know the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness ‘round me close, Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, While to that rock I’m clinging. Since love prevails in heaven and earth How can I keep from singing?
Through all the tumors and the strife I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm, While to that rock I’m clinging. Since love prevails in heaven and earth How can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths; Since first I learn to love it.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, While to that rock I’m clinging. Since love prevails in heaven and earth How can I keep from singing?

Sometimes, of course, no matter what we may want, no matter what we may hope for, no matter what we do, things don’t turn out how we planned. It’s then, more than ever, we must remember – our plan is not the important one – there is a better home awaiting, when we believe.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

As a surgeon, with far more of my trail behind me than could possibly lie ahead, I feel incredibly grateful to the many patients and families who have entrusted me with their care, over the years. I have been inspired by them. I hope that by sharing a bit of what has inspired me, you too will be inspired to reach beyond yourselves and touch the lives of some of the many who are in need of our help. If you need a little help in figuring out how, here are a couple of recent YouTube videos that might help.

Amazing Grace by John Newton

If you feel you’d like to make your effort a little closer to home, feel free to reach out to me regarding Appalachian MammoCare – A Rural Breast Care Prescription, which you can find in the Resources for Providers section of this website.