Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
A Higher Calling
During this time of year, it is customary to stop and give thanks. A holiday season kicked-off by Thanksgiving, of course, triggers such declarations, which are expressed in many different ways as we take stock of our own circumstances and the circumstances of those around us. In worship, at events with family and friends, or during private self-reflection, many people take the time to consider their situations and celebrate and give thanks for all that they are grateful for.
Of course, this is especially evident when coupled with times of great tragedy in the world, such as the devastation recently wrought by Typhoon Haiyan upon the people of the Philippines. Such events often inspire even those who are normally silent about their feelings to express their gratitude and thanks with friends and family around a Thanksgiving table. And, in my experience, those expressions—especially from the young—can surprise us in a good way. Not everyone, of course, has such a ritual. But hopefully nearly everyone can find a moment to turn down the noise of daily life and give consideration to the things they are thankful for.
Recently, a couple of conversations led me to reflect on the profession of which I am a part—the osteopathic medical profession—and the larger health professions (the helping professions) of which all of us in the medical profession are a part. One was a conversation I had with an osteopathic medical student looking for guidance on making the right training pathway choices that would enable her goal of becoming both an excellent surgeon and a public health physician. She wanted to be able to help individuals and be able to participate in the larger policy questions impacting the health of our society. Someday, she may be a member of those teams responding to disasters such as the recent typhoon in the Philippines.
The other was a conversation I had with a Washington, DC lobbyist discussing legislative issues important to ensuring that the nation will have enough of the right kind of physicians to take care of the future health care needs of our population. During this discussion he referred to me and my colleagues as “white hats.” Of course, he meant that those of us representing students, such as the medical student I mentioned earlier, and the colleges in which these students are being educated and trained, are working on a mission with a higher calling—wearing “white hats,” presumably as opposed to “black hats,” whose advocacy efforts in this town are somewhat less altruistic.
I know there are many reasons to give thanks during the coming weeks. However, for me, a large portion of that thanks will be for the people that make up the professional families at our schools—the students, faculty, staff, and administrators—as well as my colleagues at AACOM, for all that they do. Our charge states that “AACOM’s mission is to promote excellence in osteopathic medical education, in research and in service, and to foster innovation and quality among osteopathic medical colleges to improve the health of the American public.” I am as proud as ever to be wearing that white hat.