A friend of mine recently went into the hospital for a surgical operation. Afterward, she told me about a conversation she had with her doctors. Meeting with her surgeon and her anesthesiologist before surgery, this retired lifelong Sunday school teacher couldn’t resist the temptation to give them both a Bible lesson. “Let me ask you, doctors,” she inquired, “who do you think performed the first surgery?” As the doctors pondered this, looking a bit puzzled, my friend answered: “God.” (Though when she said the word, it came out in about three syllables.) “God,” she continued, “was the first surgeon. He took Adam’s rib and made Eve.”
“After this,” added my friend, “every surgery has been performed by humans. And as you perform my surgery this day,” my friend concluded, “may God guide your hand.”
Now, I realize that many of us in the medical profession are of secular persuasion. A lot of this “God” and “Jesus” and “Hallelujah” stuff we don’t relate to.
I get that.
On the other hand, perhaps we need to honor those people of faith, like my friend: people who have faith that God is guiding our hands.
From my experience, spanning a forty-year career in front-line neurology, I saw that when my patients, like my friend, embraced religious-spiritual values, they became not only happier, but they became better people. And because they became better people, our civil society itself was bettered. Let me try to explain.
I worked at a Kaiser hospital in one of the toughest neighborhoods of Hayward, California. There were the usual issues with drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancies, and vagrancy. One of these neighborhood kids was my patient, an 18-year-old named Darren. Like many kids from the neighborhood, he had grown up in a single-parent home. While Darren had in the past done his share of gangbanging, he had now turned his life around. He was busing tables at the Olive Garden restaurant and attending night school to become a plumber. He looked forward to someday raising a family of his own. Unlike his own male biological sperm donor, Darren looked forward to someday being a real father to his son.
I asked him what had changed his life. Darren told me about a neighborhood preacher who had reached out to him. The preacher had spoken about a God in heaven who loved him. “I now know for the first time,” said Darren, “That I have a Father. I have a Father who cares about me. I have a Father who cares whether I do good or whether I do bad. I want to do good.”
Amen to that. If everyone believed they had a spiritual Father in heaven who cared whether they did good or bad, perhaps we would treat each other with more kindness and decency. And perhaps then, this planet on which we live, including the city of Hayward California, would have more children grow up with real fathers, fathers who taught their children to treat others with kindness and decency.
Scott Abramson practiced neurology with Kaiser Permanente Northern California for over 40 years, from 1979 to 2020. Throughout those years, Dr. Abramson was passionately involved in physician communication and physician wellness endeavors. Some of his insights and stories from his experiences in these endeavors can be found in video format on his YouTube website channel: Doctor Wisdom.
Others are available in his recently published book, titled Bedside Manners, for Physicians and Everybody Else. What they don’t teach in medical school or any other school.