Ahead of National Doctors Day (March 30), NHF CEO and hematologist Dr. Len Valentino shared his insights for this important day celebrating medical professionals.
What advice do you have for aspiring physicians?
“The aim of medicine is to prevent disease and prolong life, the ideal of medicine is to eliminate the need of a physician.” William James Mayo
This is one of my favorite quotes, and I like to reference it when speaking to aspiring physicians. Disease and shortened life expectancy continue to be a problem and we need you, the next generation of physicians to work to eliminate disease and suffering by delivering better medical care and understanding so that these issues no longer reduce humankind's health and well being. Only then will the need for physicians eventually be eliminated.
What is most memorable to you in your career as a hematologist?
When I look back on the 40 plus years of my medical career, many faces and names come to mind. Yet they all had one thing in common, a need for compassion and care. I hope that I was able to deliver compassionate care to all of my patients that helped each one of them live a better life. Of course, not all survived and for them, I hope I was able to bring compassion and tenderness in their final journey.
Why is engaging in patient advocacy important for physicians?
Advocacy is a professional obligation of physicians. It is a professional imperative. Physicians, in collaborating with people they care for, are uniquely qualified to understand the gaps in care and have the ability to close those gaps and improve the health and well being of people they provide care for. The physician must advocate for social, economic, educational, and political changes that eliminates suffering and contributes not only to the general well-being of the people they care for, but more importantly, for society in general.
What advice would you give a physician who is interested in exiting medicine, or hanging up their white coat?
One never leaves medicine entirely, you never stop being a physician. For example, some physicians may take their talents to the bio-pharmaceutical industry as I did, or to a patient advocacy organization as I also did. Transitioning from direct patient care to a nonprofit or the for-profit world of industry is all about making a different impact on people’s health and well-being. My personal journey from academic medicine and direct patient care to industry was all about trying to increase my impact globally. Again, now as part of a patient advocacy organization, I'm trying to have an impact on the health and well being of people living with inherited blood disorders.
What life lessons have you learned from being a physician?
Don't look back because you're not going that way. If you continually look backwards you're going to miss what's in front of you and you're going to stumble. I've learned many lessons from my past mistakes; I've taken those lessons forward and tried to create a better me, someone who is more compassionate and impactful. Now, I'm always looking forward and for ways to be a better person and do better -- not just for myself, but for those around me.