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Health Care and “Anti-Health Care”

My work as a physician is a core part of my identity. I work to heal others: not just their bodies, but their spirits and souls. I strive to provide quality health care to the underserved, for I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. I try to leverage health care to empower the disenfranchised through education about their bodies and wellness.

Idealistic? Yep. My ideals provide meaning to the otherwise mundane tasks of clicking through the electronic medical record, begging insurance companies to approve necessary radiologic studies, completing endless rounds of paperwork, and scrambling to find resources where there are precious few.

Doctoring on the front lines of the COVID pandemic taxed health care providers like never before. Working more hours than during residency; putting our health and the health of our families at risk; keeping up daily with new medical information; and trying to balance our patients’ needs while our own hearts grieved and ultimately broke: we’ve been traumatized. We did not partake in a COVID craft, binge watching, or new hobbies. Instead we transformed how we deliver health care.

Events antithetical to my life’s work pain me. I recall 9-11, when terrorists murdered thousands of people in a deliberate move to snuff out life. After hospital rounds that morning, still nauseous in my first trimester of pregnancy, I attended a birth. A glorious miracle: I had the privilege of assisting a baby through the birth canal and onto the new mama’s belly. As I dressed the baby, the proud papa, who had immigrated to the United States in search of a better life, inquired, “This country is such a beautiful country. Why would anyone want to hurt it?”

Legislation antithetical to my life’s work also pains me. The recent anti-abortion and anti-trans laws have wreaked havoc on my patient’s lives and impinged on my ability to practice medicine. This offends me to my core. It infuriates me.

“Anti-health care” activities such as these make our work more difficult and our lives more stressful. As health care providers, we have to clean up the messes left in their wake and bear witness to the downstream consequences.

So, when my patient chooses to remain unvaccinated, whether it be due to needle phobia, needing more time despite our experience with millions of vaccines, or a belief that they will be spared for some irrational reason, I recoil inwardly and want to scream out in frustration.

Pamela Adelstein
Newton Center, Massachusetts