Not just a job – a calling

Douglas A Koekkoek

Doug Koekkoek, M.D.
Chief medical officer, Oregon
Chief executive, clinical services

March 19, 2014

More than 80 years have passed since Eudora Broad Almond, a doctor’s wife, had the idea to honor physicians with a day of observance every March. Our profession has evolved since then, but never so much as in the past few years.

Physicians are now medical stewards, not just for sick patients but for the health of whole communities. Some of us have gone from working autonomously to becoming team members in a medical home. We’re treating patients not just in hospitals and clinics, but also via email and sometimes through a telehealth video connection.

We’ve gone from paper charts to electronic health records; and as I write this, we’re all learning thousands of new codes under ICD-10. Finally, just as technology allows us greater flexibility to treat patients, it has drawn back the curtain on our own professional performance through comparison-shopping websites and online patient reviews.

Yet despite these massive shifts in health care, the reason we chose this profession – the soul of our work – hasn’t changed since the days of Hippocrates: We still seek to comfort, heal and save lives.

We’re reminded of this every time an acutely ill patient makes a remarkable recovery, or when we can solve a diagnostic mystery. We know we’re in a special profession when we can fulfill a patient’s dying wish to “meet” her unborn grandchild or help a stranger having a seizure 30,000 feet in the air.

As we struggle with a dot phrase in Epic or puzzle over a new billing code, it helps to read letters like this, sent from an 83-year-old pastor who was recently hospitalized at Providence Seaside Hospital. “I am reminded of an incident in Jesus’ life when he met 10 lepers who asked to be healed,” he wrote. “They were. Only one came back to thank Jesus. In a sense, I am like that leper. This is a ‘Thank you, Jesus’ – and to all who had a part of this healing experience.”

This Doctors' Day, March 30, Providence’s Oregon Region continues to honor our physicians with an annual contribution to The Foundation for Medical Excellence, a nonprofit that promotes excellence in medicine and quality health care. This contribution helps support the foundation’s well-being and professional development conferences, lectures on medical excellence, and scholarships for outstanding medical students and primary care residents.

Thank yourselves and your colleagues for living up to the highest standards of medicine and for carrying out Providence’s Mission to “reveal God’s love for all, especially the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service.”