Mystery Will Always Matter

Dr. Donald M. Berwick is a Senior Fellow at American Progress. He is also president emeritus and a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, or IHI, which Dr. Berwick co-founded and led as president and CEO for 18 years. He is one of the nation’s leading authorities on health care quality and improvement. Don was an appointee by President Barack Obama to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but faced significant opposition by the Republican Party. He’s a person that’s been involved in politics and healthcare as a big chunk of his life.

Don Berwick is also a person who addressed the graduating class of Yale Medical School in 2010. This passage below was sent to me by a friend that I’ve been in conversation with lately about mystery, healthcare, and promoting wellness.

“But, now I will tell you a secret – a mystery.  Those who suffer need you to be something more than a doctor; they need you to be a healer. And, to become a healer, you must do something even more difficult than putting your white coat on. You must take your white coat off. You must recover, embrace and treasure the memory of your shared, frail humanity – of the dignity in each and every soul. When you take off that white coat in the sacred presence of those for whom you will care – in the sacred presence of people just like you – when you take off that white coat, and, tower not over them, but join those you serve, you become a healer in a world of fear and fragmentation, an ‘aching’ world, as your chaplain put it this morning, that has never needed healing more.”

Mystery will always matter. Wow, that’s a strong statement that I just let write itself onto the page. Mystery. Impermanence. An orientation in all of us that releases the ridiculous hold of certainty that is over used, over played and idolized.

I’m grateful to my friend for highlighting this passage. And for people like Berwick who, though I haven’t met, calls forth a part of many of us that senses how powerful it is to be in that mystery together.

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