tempest included the corporatization of medicine, the rising debt of medical students, the falling incomes of physicians, the malpractice crisis, and lifestyle choices—choosing careers that don’t involve nightcall, long hours, hard work, and low remuneration. In 2004 only three of our 150 graduates had chosen careers in family medicine. In a world where medicine had become a business and health care a commodity, the committed, compassionate, caring physician who treated everyone regardless of their ability to pay had become an endangered species.
Through the Medishare years I’ve loved how our students have embraced the humanitarian cause during their trips to Haiti. Responsibility is an even greater teacher than experience. In Haiti they got a heavy dose of both. Michel and I would marvel at how quickly they ascended the learning curve and laughed secretively among ourselves. “They learn so much, and they don’t even know they’re learning!” We had created, without knowing it, the anticurriculum—no tests, no grades, no rote memorization of obscure minutiae, just the pure joy of learning what you need to know to actually help people. But the sad truth was, once they returned to an educational environment that’s become increasingly dehumanizing, only a few were able to maintain their commitment.
A Center for Humanitarian Medicine would bring together faculty from several disciplines to teach and role model professional values. In the process they could provide services to those in need both in Miami and abroad and demonstrate creative ways to alleviate suffering regardless of their patients’ lot in life. It seemed like a good idea to me.
“ ‘Humanitarian’ has become a bad word, Art,” responded Ellen. “You definitely don’t want to call it the Center for Humanitarian Medicine.”
“Humanitarianism is a bad thing? When did that happen?” I protested, crestfallen.
“You need to read David Reiff’s A Bed for the Night. It’s depress-