A physician’s prayer:

Dear Lord, thou Great Physician, I kneel before Thee. Since every good and perfect gift must come from Thee, I pray give skill to my hand, clear vision to my mind, kindness and sympathy to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift at least a part of the burden of my suffering fellow men and women, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine.Take from my heart all guile and worldliness that with the simple faith of a child I may rely on Thee.

For many years, my brick house in Jamaica, Queens, doubled as my office. My garage served as an entrance to my office, which was in the basement. I had two examining rooms, a consultation room and a small waiting area, which could seat about ten people.

I played music all day long. In addition to being a doctor, I was also a deejay. In the office I had a turntable, and I would put on gospel and jazz tunes and occasionally, play speeches by Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and even recordings of poems by Langston Hughes recited by the great poet himself. My patients enjoyed jazz as well as gospel.

Coming to my office was more like coming to a social meeting. It wasn’t unusual to have a group in one corner talking about politics and a group in another talking about music and another group talking about their families. Invariably someone would yell out “Hey Doc, what was that record you played?” My music was very important in my office; it was part of the healing agent.

From the music to my wife’s welcoming smile (she was my main receptionist) I created an atmosphere that made people feel better instantly. I hired teenagers from the neighborhood to help after school until about eight or nine at night. I gave about thirty young ladies their start in the workforce, through the office. Most of them are now doctors, nurses, judges and teachers. They all went on to do something important.

My practice was also a family business that employed my daughter and two sons in addition to my wife. My daughter often was the receptionist and my sons would clean up the office for the next day. They were the third arm that I needed to complete my work, and I appreciated it.

From the waiting room you could smell my wife’s cooking. Sometimes in the winter, when she would cook her famous chicken soup, I would go upstairs and get a cup of it for a patient who was waiting in the examining room. I also made sure we always had coffee and tea in the waiting room.

Although patients had to wait for long periods, no one minded the wait. I didn’t just rush patients in and out. After I examined them, I would talk to them, mostly about their families and their lives. I cared about each patient as a person. They weren’t just sick bodies that needed medical attention; they also needed soul healing.

It’s sad that today there are so few doctors who put that kind of energy into their practice. It’s exactly the kind of care that makes a difference. No matter what their ailments, if patients came in feeling bad, they left my office feeling better just from being in a positive atmosphere. I always told them they would be all right and work toward the goal of helping them get healthy, even if they had the worst disease. Each patient mattered to me.

I once had a woman come into my office, and before I could examine her, she went into the bathroom and fainted. I heard her when she hit the floor. Finding that she was blocking the door, I had to maneuver to get her out. With an office full of patients, I picked her up, put her in my car and drove her to the hospital, slapping her face and hitting her chest the entire way. She had stopped breathing, and I had to revive her. By the time we got to Queens General Hospital, ten minutes later, she was semi-conscious. They had to insert an endotracheal tube, after cutting a hole in her larynx, in order to get her fully breathing again. She was diagnosed with emphysema and had to stay in intensive care for more than a month.

Several months after she was released, she showed up at my house. It was a Sunday, Father’s Day, to be exact. She brought me a Father’s Day card with an unexpected fifty-dollar bill inside, which surprised me. I still have that card, with the same fifty-dollar bill taped on the inside. I never spent the money. because there is no amount of money that could pay for what I did. I did it out of a desire to see her survive. She would have died had I called the ambulance, which would have taken twenty minutes to come to my office and get her to the hospital. And while I had no respiratory equipment, I had faith. I carried her to the emergency room in my arms, and they went to work helping to save her life. She couldn’t pay me for that, and I couldn’t spend her money.

Those kinds of actions have nothing to do with being a doctor. It is about being a human being and caring enough about another human being to want to help. That’s the best medicine that insurance can’t pay for!

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