Monday, February 14, 2011

Pupils/Patients – Teacher/Doctor

In 1995, I attended the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) meeting where George Will was asked to comment on the public’s understanding of medical education. His response was simply “They don’t have an understanding!” That could be changing given two recent events!

There are two healing conversations that have recently occupied my attention. The first is the movie “The King’s Speech” and the second the play “Let Me Down Easy” by Anna Deveare Smith. Both are opportunities to examine the character of healing. In the movie we see a history of a royal British healing and the other we see the complex current state of healthcare in the United States. Both stories have been acclaimed at a time when serious conversations about healing are not popular.

It is hard to understand the popularity without a sense that in both these stories there is a concern about the roles we play in the interactions of two people in a modern world of anonymity. We usually talk about the patient/doctor relationship and less about the pupil/teacher one. What I think is the reality is that the best aspects of healing are found when we see the educational dynamic as the basis of healing in the patient/physician interaction.

The play is an educational conversation that started at the Yale School of Medicine to provide a view of medicine that is opaque to many physicians. “The King’s Speech” provides a view of healing that has more to do with teacher/pupil relationships. We see the pain in both the teacher and pupil as they live out a relationship that “healed a nation”. Both stories have a basis within a Christian history of the impact of the church as both a stimulus for educational and healthcare institutions. We still see that dynamic at work in Christian missions of education and healthcare in the developing world.

My hope is that both stories generate more serious healing conversations by virtue of their availability and visibility.

“Let Me Down Easy”

“The King’s Speech”

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