I thought I was going to change lives, but mine was the life that changed.
Every doctor has something that got them through medical school. A particular goal, desire, or aspiration from which they drew strength as they sludge through their academic beating. For some, it was the life long pressure to take over a fathers thriving practice. For others, it was the hope of financial independence. Whatever the reason or goal, I promise you every doctor had one. They tucked it away and brought it out as they studied into the early hours of the morning. They visited it in their minds as their pager sounded like an evil siren calling them away from sleep and back into the dimly lit hallways. When hope was lost and all they wanted was to quit and do or be anything else in this entire world but a doctor they remembered their “reason” and pushed on. Like all before me, and all after me, I too had a “reason”. It was my truest companion and never betrayed me. It pulled me through seasons that I wish to never relive. My “reason” was knowing that one-day, if I could finish, I would be able to take the surgical skills that I had acquired to serve and treat forgotten souls. To me it did not matter if that was in a clinic down the road, or on a continent across the world. I just knew that somewhere these forgotten souls were waiting for me. They were my “reason”.
Since finishing my training it has been my greatest privilege to serve several of these souls. I recently returned home from Ghana. The people there stole my heart. We worked hard during 6 full operating days, performing over 50 major surgeries. Each day we worked into the early morning. Yet it simply was not enough. Since coming home people often ask me if I feel a sense of accomplishment for my “good deed”. Accomplished is not the sentiment I am experiencing. Grateful for the opportunity, thankful to have met such kind and wonderful people, but mostly an overwhelming desire to do more. At night as I try to sleep I do not see the faces of the lives we changed on the operating room table, instead I am haunted by the hundreds we turned away. Burned in my mind are the mothers that held their children with no food or place to sleep for days just hoping to be seen. The absolute pain in their eyes visits me nightly as they unbelievingly watched as our medical team boarded into the vans to be taken to the airport without having treated their child.
On the ride to the airport as our driver skillfully weaved through chaotic traffic and dodged potholes I decided that my “reason” needed to be bigger. It needed to have a broader more meaningful reach. Those mothers needed to know that as one team left, another would shortly return. It is with this in mind that I write this post. This is a call to action to my wonderful medical colleagues. Come join a cause that will be more rewarding than any award you have hanging on your wall. If your “reason” is anything like mine, dust it off and come join our fight. Many of you are doing such wonderful things that are absolutely inspiring. Thank you for your service. I truly believe that most want to serve, otherwise we would not have gone into medicine. We simply get so busy and burdened with “non-patient” things (i.e. billing, paperwork, compliance trainings, etc.) that the time just passes us by and we become ever more buried alive. However, consider this your personal invitation to be a part of something more meaningful.
Step 1: Make a decision that this year you are going to step outside of your comfort zone to make a difference.
Step 2: Contact the service organization of your choice and let them know of your desire to serve. They will find a way to use you. The organization I am working with is www.ghanamakeadifference.org. We are always looking for volunteers.
Step 3: Stay committed. There will never be an optimal time to leave and serve. Stay the course keep your commitment.
I went to Ghana hoping to change lives, but mine was the life that was changed. May you all be blessed as you reach out and remember the forgotten.
Dayne R. Jensen MD, DMD
These photos were all taken in Ghana this recent trip by:
1. Zack Fackrell - www.zachfackrell.com
2. Camille Marie - www.camillemariephotography.com