A number of people have asked, "Why WISH?" -- as in, why is that the Gem card I posted for my "About" page?
What does WISH mean to me?
So happy you asked!
I love inspiring people to "...reach for the stars and then reach even higher still..." (actual words from my college application personal statement when I was 16).
This WISH of mine has never changed.
While my winding path to practicing Hospice and Palliative Medicine is a story for another time, the moment I experienced the specialty through the eyes of a clinician, I realized it was the setting where this WISH of mine comes true again and again and again.
When people hear I practice Hospice and Palliative Medicine, the most common responses are, "Oh, that must be so hard and depressing!" or "I don't know how you do that." For me and my colleagues who are drawn to this work, we experience it as a gift.
Where many see me as the Grim Reaper. I see myself as a Fairy godmother.
My "winged" white coat with my son, Kalel, in 2018. Photo by Timothy Archibald.
Working with people at the end of life as a hospice and palliative medicine specialist is night and day from my experience of caring for people at the end of life as a hematologist. "Dying was expected; it wasn’t a failure or something wrong," I explained to Courtney Hollands in an interview for Tufts Medicine magazine. "I had wings sewn into the back of my white coat to symbolize the continued presence of people I have cared for and served. I know who’s got my back. They’re all with me, guiding me."
So, if I see myself as a Fairy Godmother, my job is to discover what matters most to a person and make their WISH come true.
(Enter: Magic Wand.)
If I had a magic wand, what would you WISH for?
I have asked this question countless times. "You might think people would ask to live forever, or to cure their diseases," I told Ms. Hollands, "But every single time I’ve asked it, those aren’t the answers I get. It’s always instantaneous and could be: I want to be with my family. I want to go sit in my garden. I want to go fishing. And that’s where the fairy-godmother thing really started to show up—I can make these things happen.
For one woman on her eighty-ninth birthday, I actually did bring out a wand. I asked: What do you WISH for? And she said to be young again. What would you do if you were young again? She said she’d go shopping. She was happy for me to just pull out the newspaper and circle grocery-store coupons. It’s an opportunity to give people context outside out of what they think doctors want to hear and put them back into their lives—which is the only place that matters."
In a separate interview with health Journalist, Amy Paturel, for the Association of American Medical Colleges, I describe a WISH that would revolution the experience of healthcare simply by changing a two-letter abbreviation. “We’re all taught a structure for taking medical notes. The first stop: chief complaint, abbreviated as ‘CC.’ My dream is that instead of the Chief Complaint, it’s ‘CW,’ or Chief WISH. What does the patient WISH for? When we start to ask what’s getting in the way of doing that, it changes how we care for people.”
In addition to knowing my family, the best way to know me and why WISH is one of my Core Value Gems, you need to read my favorite author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. My children know I want a particular quote from his book, The Little Prince , for my epitaph: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Dyalogues was created to make it not just easy, but also compelling to practice excavating, shedding light and reflecting on what is essential. Like falling in love or experiencing mouth-watering food or breath-taking art, an urgency to want to share these Gems of our lives with the people we love automatically arises. Once others know, then they can reciprocate and envelop you in what you love throughout your life. Getting to make that possible for people everywhere...I don’t know what more I could...WISH.
For additional reflections on how a "Magic Wand" can illuminate what you WISH, dig into this NY Times Op-Ed.
All WISH words within quotes were formatted for emphasis and JOY :)