When I was straight out of residency training, my first practice was on a small island off the coast of New England. I embraced the challenge of providing the full range of services that I had learned as a family physician, but that definitely proved to be an uphill climb on a number of levels, both personal and professional.
Although I soon felt very connected with the islanders in general and my patients, my wife and I missed our families back in New York and the familiar offerings of a suburban community. So after three years, I decided to move to the mainland (or “America,” as the locals called it) to continue clinical practice there and the teaching that I had begun to do with a nearby medical school and residency program.
I had helped recruit my replacement, a good physician out of the Midwest, and I was showing him around our small office when an ambulance pulled up with an injured patient. I recognized the young woman as someone whom I had treated on a number of occasions and with whom I shared a bond of trust. Instinctively, I approached the stretcher to begin assessing her, but I realized that I was no longer the physician in charge.
So instead I spoke quietly to her, reassuring her that the island’s new doctor was not only competent but kind, and then I stepped back so that he could minister to her.
I was unprepared for the feeling that came over me as I understood, at that moment, that I was saying goodbye to people I had come to love and to a community that had welcomed me and my family unconditionally.
Centerport, New York