It took me a decade -- first as a caregiver to my mother, and then as a practicing physician and patient advocate -- to figure out that the story is absolutely fundamental to medical practice. Indeed, it can save your life.
Physicians are human and make mistakes like everyone else. Our weakness lies in denying human fallibility. Our strength lies in acknowledging our imperfections and working together to transform weaknesses into strengths.
How do we reconcile our commitment to excellence in health care with the inevitability of medical errors? How can we be comforted while accepting our fallibility as humans? The words of Voltaire -- "Perfection is the enemy of the good" -- point to one possibility.
We sometimes forget that those great minds in medicine live in a body -- a human body. Those bodies need restorative sleep, nourishing food, stable blood sugar, exercise, and time for connection, reflection, and community.
I am heartened by the dawn of what is called "patient-centered care." This is far more than a slogan; it is a deep and abiding commitment by caregivers to put the patient first, foremost, in a medical care system too often organized for the convenience of caregivers and administrators.
Since January of this year, more than half a million people have seen my talk. A small number of people have (rightly) taken me to task for not doing better. But most have been incredibly supportive of my call for health professionals to talk openly about their mistakes.