Why I Became a Doctor
When I was young, I witnessed the sickness and death of my friends and family. This experience at a young age can either harden your heart or form your empathy. I recall deciding that I wanted to prevent the hurt that I and others had suffered.
Becoming a doctor is not an accident, luck or fate. It doesn’t just happen. One doesn’t just get a "calling," put a hand on a rock and become a "healer." I learned that science answers questions (thank 6th grade teacher Mr. Rainer), and that mathematics done properly provides answers (thank Mrs. Ramirez, 7th grade). Becoming a doctor takes work to learn mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology and to observe the world objectively. It takes college, graduate school and medical school. So much knowledge to be crammed into the head that it feels often like it will explode.
It takes the confidence of my parents who pushed me to achieve and their support to continue. It takes persistence in the face of adversity, and for me, the support of the love of my life, my besherte, my wings and direction, keeper of my soul, mother of my children. And even from her father who taught me to respect the purpose of my tools and to use tools to my purpose later.
The juvenile desire to be the one to "cure cancer" has been replaced by the need to learn the things that are known, define the things that we don’t know, appreciate areas in which our "knowledge" is wrong and lessen areas of which we are totally unaware.
Most deaths that are not related to violence in a "civilized society" are related to changes that take place in the cardiovascular system. A pump (the heart), an electrical system (that makes it beat), a bunch of pipes (arteries and veins) and some fluid (blood) seemed to be a system that I could understand. And if I could understand it, I could make a difference in people’s lives. So I decided to become a cardiologist.
I believe that good medical care is a collaborative effort between doctor and patient. Both want the patient to do well, but speak to each other from different chairs and experience. Doctors are not necessarily great communicators, use jargon and assume patients understand. Patients don’t have experience with diseases or medications and often are unwilling to say that they don’t understand. Thus, confusion, error, and in the era of the short patient visit, neither physician nor patient can be content with the encounter.
With the experience of thirty plus years of research and clinical patient care, my goal is to open discussions of what we now know (or don’t) about diseases, drugs, lifestyles and the development of disabilities and heart or vascular diseases. Please feel free to ask questions that will help you and others understand about how your body works, how medicines can or can’t help in various diseases and what you can do to aid your doctor in maintaining your own health. Hopefully, through your questions, we will open dialogues that can be helpful to both you and your treating physicians.
Larry Weinrauch is a cardiologist in Watertown, Massachusetts and is affiliated with Mount Auburn Hospital. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Heart Health, High Blood Pressure, and High Cholesterol.