“Many people see doctors and see arrogance or greed. Others see caring souls. The doctor in the mirror sees a broken soul and carries much suffering.” – Dr. Linda
People often ask me why I decided to become a doctor. There is no good answer, but it’s just something I have always known from my youngest years. There are some who chose this path to help people, and some who just love medical science that much. Both of those ring true for me, but it is a much deeper calling. When I look at the doctor in the mirror, I don’t see the one I expected to become looking back at me.
The journey to doctor-hood is a tempest to survive. Only the strongest, weather-beaten ones come out the other side of the storm. Some become cynical in the darkness and fail to see the rising rainbow. Before becoming a doctor, I envisioned myself saving everyone. The doctor in the mirror knows that medical science is limited and is saddened by the misery that has been witnessed.
Doctors are not superheroes or even heroes. We are just doing our jobs. People often look to us for miracles that we cannot provide. Parents cry to us to save their children or beg us to save their other loved ones. We try and do the best we can. And then we try some more. Sometimes, we even try to over-come science, but it doesn’t always work. The doctor in the mirror knows that she has disappointed many people who laid their hopes on her feet.
Pain crosses our paths on a daily basis. Our job is to find the cause and stomp it out. Sometimes, the pain in our patients overcomes us. Sometimes, we cure it but other times we can’t. In our young doctor visions, we were able to make everyone feel better. The doctor in the mirror knows there are many that we can’t and they take away a piece of our heart.
Death is our enemy. It yearns to snatch away the lives of those we treat. The battle can be deadly and often leaves us bruised. The ideal doctor saves lives. She repeatedly defeats death and allows those it its grasp to escape and live. The doctor in the mirror watched many die, despite undertaking a mortal combat.
Sickness surrounds us and we fight it away. Our weapons are strong but limited and sometimes fail. Our young selves imagined we would cure all. The doctor in the mirror knows that sometimes sickness wins and there are not always cures.
Many people see doctors and see arrogance or greed. Others see caring souls. The doctor in the mirror sees a broken soul and carries much suffering. She is not a hero or someone who cures all disease. Nor can she save everyone’s life. There is sickness and death and chronic diseases that over-power her. Sometimes, all she can do is cry because there is nothing left to try. Yet, she never gives up. She never surrenders. She fights battles that she will never win, yet she fights nonetheless.
Patients put their hope and trust in her and she bears that weight. Those are heavy loads and she must carry them out. And when she fails she feels she has betrayed that hope and trust. She smashes dreams and extinguishes sparks of optimism. She hands out death sentences where she would like to give life.
The doctor in the mirror started full of hope and optimism and the dream to help others. And for the most part, that is what she does. But, reality cracks the reflection in the mirror. Hope must remain or no one will be able to look in the mirror. No matter how dark or sick or painful or dire, the doctor in the mirror knows that a chance always remains and she will fight on past the edge of optimism.
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Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.