Recently, I had one of those "proud Daddy" moments: watching my son play in the Chicago Civic Orchestra's last concert of their 95th season. (For those unfamiliar, the Civic Orchestra is the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.) They played Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 under the direction of Jaap van Zweden - one of the most amazing conductors I have ever seen (and I later learned, one of my son's favorites). Afterward, we were invited to a reception and I had a chance to meet YoYo Ma who served as an inspiration, role model, and mentor for my son for the past year in his role as creative consultant with the orchestra. What a wonderful guy. He was fun, energetic, complimentary and thoughtful.
Later that night, my encounter with these artists got me thinking about my role as a mentor to young physicians. I teach residents. I teach EP fellows. What are they thinking? Am I doing all I can for them?
So it came as a surprise that I had just been offered to speak at a fellows conference later this year. The conference was sponsored by a major medical device manufacturer in a lovely US city. 100 fellows would be there along with 40 industry personnel. I would be paid well for my travel and speaking time. I'd connect with other contemporaries of mine whom I admire that would also serve as speakers. My topic involved an aspect of social media for physicians.
How could I resist?
And yet, here I am talking about the Health Care Industrial Complex and the Iron Triangle of comprised of Congress, special interests, bureaucracy and how doctors are swept up in their wake. I thought about being a mentor, a teacher, a doctor. I wondered how it might ever change. I wondered if doctors would ever have the courage to push back against the seductive powers of ego and money. Then I realized: probably not. It's how we're groomed for this from the beginning. We're human. So I have no doubt another doctor will be more than happy to serve as my replacement.
And so it goes.
But perhaps I could do what I love again, I could teach for the joy of watching young doctors get excited again, not because I needed to make a buck. Perhaps I could teach those same doctors that we do what we do because it's not about the corporate boondoggle, but about the patient. I could mentor.
So I declined the offer.
After all, I've got other priorities now.