Becoming Zusha: Reflecting on Potential in Medical Education and Practice

By Hedy Wald

Reb Zusha* used to say: “When I die and come before the heavenly court, if they ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Abraham?’ I’ll say that I didn’t have Abraham’s intellectual abilities. If they say, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I’ll say I didn’t have Moses’ leadership abilities. For every such question, I’ll have an answer. But if they say, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that, I’ll have no answer.”   

*Rabbi Meshulam Zusha of Hanipol (Anipoli), pious great Hassidic Rabbi (1718-1800)

What is our answer when faced with the challenge of helping our “Zushas,” our learners and educators, be all the “Zushas” they can be?

Developing a “reflective culture” within medical schools and teaching hospitals can encourage and guide learners, educators, and practitioners to recognize and take steps toward realizing untapped potential in self and in health care teams. Within a longitudinal, developmental reflective process starting in year one of medical school, extending into residency  and beyond,1 reflection-fostered awareness of self, other, and situation facilitates purposeful, self-directed learning, more effective use of feedback, and development of new habits of mind, heart, and practice.2  Meaning is created from experience and newly illuminated capabilities may be actualized…

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Four Ways to Increase Your Reflective Capacities: Heartbreak, Destroying Idols, Paradoxes, and Abandonment

By David C. Leach

William Butler Yeats said: “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves poetry.” During the course of normal human development most people at some point have had their hearts broken, cherished beliefs challenged, paradoxes entertained or have been lonely or felt abandoned. Sometimes these moments can offer powerful prompts to turn inward and to enhance one’s reflective capacities, one’s poetic repertoire, and this in turn can enable learners and faculty to be more compassionate and reflective practitioners. The alternative responses, hardening the heart, embracing idols, not honoring the paradox or becoming ever more isolated can have devastating effects on both the learner and their patients. Moving from rhetoric to poetry is an important skill for learners to develop…

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