This medieval prayer reminds me what makes a good physician, no matter how learned they are: humility.
by Rick Hamlin — Posted on Jan 8, 2013
I love my doctor, my primary care physician, Seth. By now we’re on a first-name basis. I see Seth only once a year, if I’m lucky, but he always makes me feel like he’s got all the time in the world for me. He’s kind, caring, funny and wise. Today at my regular checkup, I noticed a framed prayer on his wall.
“What’s that?” I asked him.
“It’s been attributed to Maimonides, the medieval rabbi and physician. It might not be by him, but it’s pretty good.”
“Can I read it?”
“Sure, take it down,” he said. “Better yet, let me find you a copy of it online.” While other patients were waiting—which embarrassed me—Seth logged on and found a copy to print. It reminds me what makes a good physician, or a good professional of any kind, no matter how learned they are: humility.
The last lines sum it up: “Almighty God, thou hast chosen me in thy mercy to watch over the life and death of thy creatures. I now apply myself to my profession. Support me in this great task so that it may benefit mankind, for without thy help not even the least thing will succeed.”
Seth has got all sorts of sophisticated means to practice his profession, machines that Maimonides would never have dreamed of, the very best in modern medication, tests that can reveal amazing things about the body. He was writing down on a piece of paper a couple of blood tests he wanted me to have. Thanks to Seth and his colleagues, I live a healthy, vital life.
But at the end, we’re both at the mercy of something higher. For without thy help not even the least thing will succeed.
“Everything looks good,” he said to me.
“Thanks,” I said, shaking his hand. “And thanks for the prayer.”