Some of you may have heard or read about my career aspiration as a child – I wanted to be a doctor. Following my recent heart episode, I found myself reflecting on this and the Permanente Medical Group physicians of Kaiser Permanente who cared for me – and about me.
I often speak about the importance of health, and I have worked hard to eat right, exercise and take good care of myself – although I still am working on getting more sleep. Recently, while going about business as usual, I had an episode involving my heart, the first since my heart surgery more than 11 years ago. Throughout the past 11 years, my primary care physician and my cardiologist have taken exceptional care of me.
Because I'm in tune with my body enough to know something wasn't right, I sought advice from my cardiologist and went to the Emergency Room immediately. In that moment where your health is on the line, it doesn't matter what position you hold or what resources you have or don't have. The important things that matter are being able to continue living your life and overcoming all of your fears when your body isn't acting normally. It was scary and I was scared.
While I have always been a person of faith, my prayers were answered through the wonderful Emergency Department (ED) care team led by our ED physicians. Thankfully, after x-rays, ultra-sound and other procedures, the ED team pinpointed the problem and stabilized me to normalcy within a short period of time. While one might equate the care I received to the position I hold, I see this same level of care and expertise all the time during the many site visits I make each year to Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical offices throughout the areas we serve. I also hear from our members in person and through notes specifically praising our physicians.
My cardiologist joined me in the Emergency Department and immediately took charge. Her skills, competency, compassion and leadership were on full display. She explained. She touched. She observed. She instructed. She listened. She cared. My prognosis depended on the ability of my physicians to guide me – both mentally and physically – through an explanation of what was happening in my body and the options that were available to me.
A week later I required a medical procedure that went directly into my heart, and I experienced first-hand the medical excellence we deliver. The team of physicians was led by an interventional cardiologist who was a master of his profession. He was incredible! The way he described what he was going to do and how he would do it made me feel like I was meeting with an artist – and perhaps this is the highest level of art and science one can do because it sustains life. The procedure went exceptionally well. They were able to go into my heart, fix the problem and return me to health in a matter of days. I have fully recovered to enjoy life with my family and to lead this incredible organization.
This is my personal tribute to our physicians – to my personal physicians with their dedication, expertise and professionalism who returned me to health – and to the 22,600 Permanente Medical Group physicians who practice skillfully for the 11.7 million members of Kaiser Permanente.
Physicians work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. They work early, late, and on weekends and holidays. In addition to advocating prevention through diet and exercise, they manage complex and critical care with their knowledge, capabilities and world-class leadership for our patients and for the medical profession.
I love my job, but I am not a physician. That's why I want to say thank you to our physicians: Thank you for taking the Hippocratic Oath; for practicing in a system that allows you to focus on and to perfect best practice medicine rather than push mind-boggling paperwork and mitigate administrative distractions; for raising the bar on evidence-based medicine that has set new standards for achievable health outcomes impacting millions of people; for practicing in a self-governance model that supports your success; for setting the highest expectations for medical excellence; and for deciding to become a physician in the first place, which requires rigor and selfless commitment. You can count on my support and appreciation for what you do every day for your patients and for who you are – a physician.
The miracle of the medical experience is almost unreal, and I salute all the physicians practicing in America and throughout the world. While I've always loved our physicians, I walked out of the hospital with even more respect and gratitude for what they do for all of us. Thank you for giving me more years, new memories and beautiful moments to come. I salute you.