Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Knowing Yourself

Atul Gawande's "Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance" was a smooth and delightful read. Just like many of the books we have read before, this story has countless personal experiences that allows the readers to understand the author well. Gawande's stories are so descriptive that sometimes I really do feel like I'm watching the scene before my eyes. Although it may seem that Gawande jumps from various topics, I realized in the end that he gives us many accounts in order to really grasp the difficulties doctors may go through. These difficulties can come from simple hand-washing habits to making life or death decisions for others.
Gawande's statement that the hardest part of being a doctor is to know what you have power over and what you don't. This statement reminded me of the Confucian teaching that you really got to know yourself. And in order for you to do that, you need the opinions of others around you. Overall, it's a matter of knowing your weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes it may be hard to do this because people can be so obsessed with their successes only that they start to identify themselves only through those times. They can also be blinded by their successes that they don't even take into consideration their weaknesses. That's why accountability is so important so that others can shine light on what you can't see. I feel like this may be due to many cultures pushing people to live for success. Therefore, from such a young age we become so money-driven, and identify ourselves with credentials.
We don't take the time to acknowledge our weaknesses and failures. Instead we try to cover up our failures as fast as we can and don't work on them. I'm really glad Gawande makes this point because I believe, weaknesses are what really develops a person in many ways. And having those weaknesses really compels people to become genuine to others and honest with themselves. It just got me thinking that it must be really hard for doctors to constantly go through the process of bettering themselves through their failures since it must take a lot of inner strength to do so. And sometimes they have to go against what society thinks just as Semmelweis did in order to stand up for what they believe in.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's a really valuable lesson to take away from this book. I imagine it would be difficult to constantly need to self-assess and improve; medicine is a difficult field that doesn't leave much time for individual work. When reading Better, I felt almost bad for physicians and surgeons because there is no clear protocol for actions. It also made me hopeful that there are some doctors who are willing to take the time to better themselves, and who really value thinking critically about the work they and their colleagues have done.