What a rewarding feeling it is to come back at the end of the day knowing that you’ve left a positive impact on another person. To know that you have helped fix another person’s problems, no matter how small, and walk away with an even greater feeling of fulfillment—there is nothing quite like it. I’ve observed that sometimes it’s easy to forget about the whole patient aspect when you get into the mundane cycle of things: busy schedules, long days, routine procedures, numerous patients and an expected production value per month to reach. These things can make it very easy to forget that it’s not just about what a doctor can do for their patient, it’s also about what a patient can do for the doctor or healthcare provider.
In our student run free clinics in San Diego, we really focus on our community as a teacher. Having so much personal interaction with patients really teaches us an incredible amount—listening to their background, their life experiences, their family, their problems. Over time, I’ve really been exposed to individuals of very unique backgrounds, learned to care for people, being a person that others can confide in, how to be patient with people, be someone that can help make others feel safe and at ease, or just be someone to make others smile.
With that being said, I’m reminded again today to be grateful every day for patients that I am fortunate enough to meet, ones that will continually change my life the same way I hope to change theirs. A simple conversation with the people of Papua New Guinea who have always heard of the ship but have never seen the ship until today, making a patient smile after his first extraction, taking panoramic x-rays of patients, being able to help take away the pain that patients have been having, doing procedures that prevent further infection and periodontal disease, educating our patients on the harmful effects of betel nut—all of these things may seem slightly insignificant in the big picture, but I will never truly stop believing that the power to change lives lies simply within us.
Well, let’s talk logistics now. Today was the first official day that we were able to see patients, with one half of our providers and assistants going on the field to Arawa to do CHE’s and the other half staying on the Mercy to see patients in our operatory rooms. I stayed on the ship with a couple of others and being able to work on the ship really expands our options in terms of the procedures that we are able to do-amalgam fillings, composite restorations, surgeries, root canals, panoramic x-rays, and more complex extractions. Out on the field, providers do primarily extractions and they are able to see many more patients.
Today was just a good day overall. Actually, scratch that. It was an amazing day. It just brought me so much joy to finally be interacting with patients, communicating with them, working alongside lieutenants and captains working aboard the ship, preparing for the day ahead by taking panoramic x-rays of patients for the next day, and ending the evening off with some team bonding and a good workout. Tomorrow, I’m headed out to Arawa for CHE and will be (FINALLY!) setting foot in Papua New Guinea. I can’t wait.
Out. (As they would say in the Navy)
Written June 29, 2015