The text message flashed on my phone. “I need to talk to you about a patient, please call me.”
It was Jake, a dermatology colleague and my former resident, now a successful dermatologist in private practice. I immediately called him and he updated me about a patient of his who was diagnosed from another hospital with the diagnosis of TEN (toxic epidermal necrolysis). We were both surprised since TEN is a life-threatening disease, usually requiring treatment in the intensive care unit. After speaking to the patient, he learned that he was complaining of burning while urinating. While this usually means something minor, like a urinary tract infection, it could also mean that his TEN was flaring and he may be getting worse. We quickly worked together to have the patient admitted to the hospital where I am one of the directors of the dermatology residency program, contacting my chief resident to oversee the admission.
The next morning, I texted my colleague for an update. He was gratified that we were able to get him admitted. His condition deteriorated within an hour after arriving at the hospital and he was immediately transferred to a tertiary university hospital that specializes in burn patients, the treatment of choice for TEN. Had we delayed even for a few minutes, the outcome would undoubtedly have been fatal. I thanked my resident for being astute to recognize the potentially dire situation and he immediately returned my text, thanking me for training him and assisting in the admission.
“We are doing what we are trained to do!”
Dermatology is one medical speciality that does not usually deal with acutely ill patients, requiring immediate hospitalization. Thanks to my colleague’s clinical acumen, he recognized the signs and symptoms that foreshadowed a potentially ominous outcome. There are several medical specialties that do not have direct patient care or minimal interaction with patients. Pathology is one of them. This interaction with this seriously ill patient reminded both of us that regardless of our chosen specialties and the nature of our interactions with patients, we are physicians first and the needs of our patients are paramount.
If I had stated on my medical school application that I wanted to be a physician and become a pathologist, it may have raised some eyebrows. After all, isn’t the reason why most aspire to a career in medicine is because they wish to care for patients? In truth, I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist but felt drawn to the specialty of pathology and later to the subspecialty of dermatopathology. I never viewed it as departing from patient care. It did not matter whether I received any recognition, my ultimate goal was to care for the patient. In my profession, I have been honored to work with many like-minded professionals in the laboratory. They are the clinical laboratory scientists, Ph.D. scientists, cytotechnologists, and laboratory assistants. They will seldom receive the accolades that other healthcare professionals, like nurses and physician assistants, may receive but they all know they are performing a vital role for patient care.
Caring for patients is a broad category with many moving parts. Simply because a physician does not see a patient in person or does not usually deal with life threatening diseases does not mean they are a lesser part of the healthcare team. Think of a stage production. While the actors get the bulk of the public accolades, their success is dependent upon the professionals working behind the scenes-the director, screenwriter, lighting, sound, and makeup, just to name a few.
Our spiritual lives are no different. Accolades may sometimes be directed toward a pastor or the staff of a local church. Certainly godly preachers and teachers deserve our praise and support but ultimately, there are many more workers within the Church who labor without recognition or accolades. They are seeking to build one another’s faith by laying a firm foundation on Jesus Christ.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NASB)
If you are a Christian and have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you should do what you are trained to do, preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. It does not matter whether you are recognized or ignored by others for your efforts, only God’s approval matters. The Apostle Paul rightly directed our attention away from the identity of the worker and to praise the identity of our efforts, Jesus Christ.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.