Returning on Foot





They work with herbs
and penicillin.
They work with gentleness
and the scalpel.
They dig out the cancer,
close an incision
and say a prayer
to the poverty of the skin.

…they are only human
trying to fix up a human.
Many humans die.

But all along the doctors remember:
First do no harm.
They would kiss if it would heal.
It would not heal.

If the doctors cure
then the sun sees it.
If the doctors kill
then the earth hides it.
The doctors should fear arrogance
more than cardiac arrest.
If they are too proud,
and some are,
then they leave home on horseback
but God returns them on foot.
~Anne Sexton “Doctors” from The Awful Rowing Toward God.






Let me not forget how humbling it is
to provide care for a hurting person
and not be certain that what I suggest
will actually work,

to be trusted to recommend the best option
among many~
including tincture of time,
wait and see,
try this or that.

Like other physicians who tumble off
at a full gallop, having lost balance
between confidence and humility,
I sometimes find myself unseated and unsettled,
returning on foot to try again to make a difference.










3 thoughts on “Returning on Foot

  1. Your words, Emily: Humbling? Yes. Practical? Yes. Needed to be practiced consistently in today’s medical profession? Definitely.

    In all fairness to those who labor in the medical profession in today’s ‘real’ world of medicine and its increasing reliance upon technology, especially in the United States, we must be aware of the almost crippling interference in that profession by all governmental agencies’ decrees and insurance companies’ rules that result in mounds of paperwork and violation of patient privacy that require much doctor and staff employee time to ensure compliance. All of these mandates and legislation result in legislated punishing infringements on doctors’ professional abilities and time allocation for each patient that is frustrating for the doctor and grossly unfair and an insult for the patient. The constantly over-filled waiting rooms waiting for a staffer to open that ‘swinging’ entrance door to the hallowed doctor’s office is dispiriting because, in reality, and in most instances, the patient is afforded approximately a ten minute ‘audience’ with their doctor — after waiting perhaps several months it takes to be given that ‘magical’ appointment. Equally annoying is to watch ‘big pharma’s sales rep toting his/her sample case of new or upgraded meds (including free samples) be admitted to the doctor’s office without any specific appointment – and before a patient waiting in line for possibly an hour.

    I checked the language in the original physician’s Oath authored
    by Hippocrates, a Greek physician ca. 5th century B.C., versus
    the modern version authored by an Academic Dean of Tufts University
    School of Medicine in 1964. There were linguistic, cultural, procedural
    and vast moral differences between the two oaths as one would expect
    in a document spanning 16 centuries.

    As a patient of at least 13 physicians (one for different parts of my aging body
    over the course of each year) I feel very comfortable with the essence of
    your honest, humble credo, Emily. It instills hope, caring and, tacit belief
    and trust in our Creator-God. And I wish you a fulfilling journey as you continue
    that journey on foot!

    (An interesting aside — that I heard one of my Marine brothers say at one time:
    ‘he doesn’t know whether he’s on foot or horseback.)

    Liked by 2 people

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