The constant is, and will always be, my interest in working with and I hope helping the children in my community. I confess that I looked at other opportunities in other areas of the country. But it was too difficult to leave the kids I already know and I could not escape the feeling of having unfinished business. I have always felt loyalty is the strongest of virtues.
What has changed is my understanding of the need for full and clear communication, not only between myself and the children who are my patients, but also and especially with the parents and families of these kids. I realize in retrospect that the pressures of being involved with such a busy practice did not allow me to spend as much time as I should have explaining my thinking and trying to understand the concerns and expectations of all involved. I was able, during my break, to talk to a number of practitioners about how they maximize communication, and although I can tell you that no one has it down to a science, I came away with a number of new ideas that I think will help. I also hope I never lose sight of the all-important trust factor that makes a successful doctor-patient relationship.
I, like many Americans, spent the summer trying to grapple with changes in policy as the Affordable Care Act begins to take effect. I promise not to get overly political, but I find the ACA to be a tremendous opportunity to improve health care delivery, especially in the pediatric specialties. For one thing, more children will have insurance and access to quality care. For another, the law promotes communication and cooperation between specialty doctors and referrers and between doctors and hospitals. And although it does not seem so right now, I think it will ultimately empower patients in the management of their own care. Obviously, there is much more to see before anyone can make the final determination about the law.
Most importantly, my Sabbatical gave me an extended opportunity to spend time with my family and to relearn the importance of family ties. This time enabled me to work with my son, a Second Year student at University of Virginia, on a number of creative outlets. Through his encouragement, I sketched and wrote. He even got me to start running regularly, which I would have bet could never happen. I took voice lessons, which I had promised myself for a long time now. I accompanied my wife on travel that I would never have been able to do had I been working – and so, I saw Brazil for the first time and attended the Gala Opening of the American Ballet Theater in New York City, among other adventures. Throughout it all my family was a source of comfort and inspiration.
Perhaps most satisfying, I had the time to work with my father, Henry, an esteemed orthopaedist living in semi-retirement in Boston, on a book on Genetic Conditions in Orthopaedics, which has been published and is available to anyone who has absolutely nothing better to do. We even included my son in the project as he designed the cover art (see below).