Hearing the Call: A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand their Vocation
By Deb Roman
The children tried to cope, but at times, the best they could do was to go into a room and scream, sometimes for more than an hour, emerging exhausted and distant. They struggled to ﬁnd comfort in play, unburdened by the weight of their experiences. As a summer intern in this hospital for abused children, I hoped to get experience with a speech therapist on staff, but as I walked the halls after hours, and listened for the children, the depth of their suffering, and the response of the medical director moved me in a way that would change my direction…
I remember this physician as a smaller man, serious and determined, and when most of the staff had left the hospital for the day, I would ﬁnd him in his ofﬁce, sitting quietly, staring off into the dimly lit room, contemplating ways to reach these children and help them ﬁnd peace. I looked to this physician for guidance. How do we help them heal? He taught me without words, with glances and a timed touch of a child’s arm, with dedication to his art, seeking, listening and trusting in that which is innate and motivates our healing. He poured over charts, made endless calls to family members and other practitioners, and researched innovative treatments, but what I remember most was his time with the children. When he was with the children, he was fully present, his eyes met theirs and they shared an unspoken, but profoundly clear connection, an acceptance that in itself was healing. Even the most withdrawn children seemed to watch for him, and at times seek him out. After a few months, I decided to apply to medical school. I had experienced something that had changed me, and while I didn’t completely understand what it was at the time, I knew that it was essential and important, and had been inspired.
I often reﬂect on my time in the children’s hospital, grateful for this quiet and humble physician who reﬂected the art of practice to me, the privilege of sharing our patients’ journeys and the ways that authentic, compassionate relationships with patients promote healing.
Deb Roman, D.O., has worked as a family physician in clinical medicine for over 30 years with a focus on enhancing the body’s inherent ability to heal and express health. She is also an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences. She teaches classes on osteopathic principles and practice and mindfulness in medicine. She maintains the Finding Health website and blog. Follow her on Twitter @DrDebRoman.