Danny Chavez, M.D. showed up in my life posing as a Spanish translator. He is 24 years wise and completed his internship and graduated a month ago at the Universidad Central del Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador. In Ecuador, young people take a test in high school to qualify for medical school and begin a six-year program.
Dr. Chavez started with seventy other students and was one of four to complete the rigorous journey. He starts his general medical residency in August and eventually would like to be a surgeon. Before that though, the Great Doctor had a mission for Dr. Chavez. It must have been something like, “Suck it up. I need you to teach Dr. Tinsley for a week.”
“Dr. Danny” as we know him likes the discipline of the Japanese culture and worries about his own culture. He is a bit of a romantic. He loves scripture, writing, and thinking about infinity and the problems in the universe and how the world could improve. Hmmmmmm…
He has been translating Spanish to English since he was 15 years old but this week, he primarily practiced medicine… under the watchful eye of his new friend in medicine. I rationalized that we would just start his residency early! But then I learned quickly that I was indeed the student.
We had medical conversations. “Sounds good. How would you like to treat that Dr. Chavez? Did you think about this? What about that? What do you think are the possibilities? How would you treat it? Pityriasis? What is that? Do you guys have access to free clinics? You do? Oh, but it’s really slow. But we are seeing 500 people a day with our small crew… I know… it makes you think… about how we utilize resources… and which rules actually make health better.”
Often, our conversations would digress. “Have you ever heard of Tim Keller? No, I have not read The Case for Easter by Strobel. Should I? There is a lot of medical stuff in that book. What about Mere Christianity and C.S. Lewis? I’ll send it to you. Do you have Kindle?
What’s your cell? You guys use What’s App? Are you on Facebook? No way really? What’s your favorite scripture? I have so many. I like Psalm 119 and 1 Kings about infinity… It’s on my Facebook page.”
And then deeper. “Do you really believe He uses all things for good or is that just what we say to make ourselves feel better when something bad happens. Yes, I believe it. He’s the only one big enough for that… we are all too selfish. He’s using us today. I know, I was sad because my residency was delayed. But then we would not have met. I know… Romans 8:28… I know.”
So, for a week, protected from the distractions of money, insurance, status, socioeconomics, or nationality we talked about the science and art of medicine and the theology of God. We loved God and we served (the action of love) others with medical care. We did this as international colleagues and friends, you know, as His children… Something bigger is going on…
Dr. Danny said he learned a lot about treating patients (he learned about RICE for arthritis and joint pain, ITP, hernias, abdominal pain including lots of and gastritis and parasites and even toxoplasmosis-my only case in my life, vein disease, cardiovascular health, gallstones, appendicitis, colon cancer, and laparoscopy) and how much fun it was to work as colleagues who respect each other.
It was inspiring to watch his excitement about general medicine and how intensely and seriously he approached his responsibility for the care of others. I hope he remembers how much fun we had relating to and treating patients that week… that it is okay to laugh and smile with your patients. I am sure he will remember how little Spanish I can speak.
And while he could not teach me Español, Dr. Danny, and the people of Ecuador, taught me many things that week.
I learned that a thousand miles away, the medical problems are the same. The treatments are the same. The problems with system access and efficiency are the same. The distractions to the patient-physician relationship are the same. Most important, I learned that the hope of each patient is the same: Peace, in body and soul.
I learned a lot about rashes, viruses, hypertension, arthritis, and even lupus and neurofibromatosis. I especially learned how much I value my colleagues in family medicine and internal medicine and pediatrics…
I was deeply reminded of how much patience primary care providers have (and how much I do not have; I know, not news) … and how valuable their service to mankind truly is. There is no way to quantify (or adequately reward) the hours and lives spent counseling and encouraging and teaching patients… and how vital these subjective efforts are for better health.
I was reminded that the enthusiasm of young professionals in healthcare is an essential energy to the system. I was reminded that experience does matter, and that the Socratic method is alive and well, even in two languages or in “Spanglish.” I was reminded that there is no limit to who can learn what and what can be learned in the service of patients efficiently and personally.
Finally, I reinforced my belief that the future of healthcare (and the world) foundationally depends on the concept of loving God and loving others. Imperfect as we are, if we cannot find a way to connect these two commandments, our patients will never receive the power of the Spirit. Despite the incredible strides made in medicine, something bigger than science and technology is going on. Our patients desperately need to be reminded of this and connected to it. It is the only true way to find peace in the soul.
So, thank you, Dr. Danny, for teaching a teacher for a week… in your love for the Great Doctor and in your service (the activity of love) to His sheep, we all got a glimpse of infinite love and the power of the Spirit, “on earth, as it is in heaven…” Thank you for the glimpse of Heaven.