Practicing medicine in a divided country

We live in a fractured country and opinions are becoming more polarized. It’s getting harder to find common ground as everyone slowly recedes further into their social media or cable news echo chambers. One of the best things about working in health care is that these opinions don’t matter. We take it as our duty to treat everyone equally, with the utmost respect, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or political opinion.

I love this about my career. I also really like working in a part of the country where I know many of my patients disagree with me on several hot button issues.  These issues never come up in our office visits. We laugh, we joke, we talk shop. It’s quite incredible how every day, we can put aside differences to make a meaningful impact on each other’s lives.

But I am a minority. I am a minority that feels threatened by the current state of our nation. I feel threatened by those bold enough to openly pronounce hate against people like me. I feel threatened by politicians who covertly work daily to marginalize folks like me and other minorities. But I never feel threatened by my patients who implicitly support these policies.

In my darkest, most vulnerable, moments, I wonder (but never ask) what my patients think about me and what I believe. I wonder how good decent people can have such contrary opinions on issues that are so personal to me.  In those fleeting moments, my heart sinks, the day feels longer, clicking my mouse becomes harder, and words require more effort. The struggle is real but, fortunately, fleeting. I brush aside these negative thoughts and remind myself that it doesn’t matter.

Everyone deserves good health care, and everyone deserves my best. I remind myself, every day is another opportunity to not only change someone’s health outcome but also change perspectives on who I am besides my medical degree.

Shabbir Hossain is an internal medicine physician who blogs at Shab’s Sanatorium.

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