My Origin Story [abridged]

My Dad, a physician, settled in his easy chair, underlining in his most recent edition of the Merck Manual.
He looks up at me and says, “Henry, a doctor must always keep up!”
My Mother, a New York City high school math teacher, now become my tutor, relieves my refractory incomprehension of the equations of analytic geometry- Mom, you are amazing!
Me, age 14 before the television, enrapt:
Freeze frame of young Jim Kildare,
Handsome, intense, all in white,
Stethoscope poised over the patient’s waiting chest.
I wanted to become all of them.

On Humanism, Empathy, Compassion and On Being a Physician:
Dawn, 23 years old, making ward rounds alone during my medical clerkship,
I had an epiphany:
Not only are we all bound to die, but to add gratuitous insult to existential injury, it is almost certain that we will suffer terribly beforehand.
Stricken with a fatal loss of innocence, I finished rounds.
On that day I became a physician.

On Supervising and Being a Teacher:
I know that I am a role model and that my behavior must always bear scrutiny.
I will insist on your best performance as well as on my own.
I will provide you with unlimited support, encouragement and constructive criticism.
With respect to patient care: if we ever doubt we have enough, we will discover what needs yet be done.
I love to teach. I strive to infuse every moment in the classroom and at the bedside with the sum of all that I have learned (so far!) from the practice of medicine, my studies in the humanities, and reflecting on my life.
The “warranty” on my enthusiasm is renewed each time I succeed in communicating a tough concept.
I “bar press to exhaustion” for the sake of the smile of recognition blooming on a student’s face, or to observe the trainee’s mastery of a new clinical skill.
Happily, most of my students seem to enjoy me as much as I enjoy them.
I know I can’t, but if I could, I would do this forever.

Henry Bleier is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania

Iceland_Joseph Chaudhari“Iceland,” photo by Joseph Chaudhari