Visitors and Guests

In May, our newly appointed leader of CMS, Dr. Don Berwick, gave the graduation address at Yale University Medical School where his daughter was entering the ranks of newly anointed physicians. The graduation address has all but gone viral, making its way to those of us in Chicago so interested to hear the heart-felt health care experiences Dr. Berwick shares whenever he speaks. While the entire address was quite moving, what struck me most was the humility with which he views his profession, and his place within the circle of doctor-patient involvement. Here is an excerpt that I found particularly moving and speaks to the importance of delivering health care in a way that puts the patient first:

…What is at stake here may seem a small thing in the face of the enormous health care world you have joined. It is as a nickel to the $2.6 trillion industry. But that small thing is what matters. I will tell you: it is all that matters. All that matters is the person. The person. The individual. The patient. The poet. The lover. The adventurer. The frightened soul. The wondering mind. The learned mind. The Husband. The Wife. The Son. The Daughter. In the moment.

In the moment, it is all about choice. You have a magical opportunity. You have the opportunity to decide. Yes, you can read the rule book; and someday you can even write the rule book. Decide. Yes, you can hide behind the protocols and the policies. Decide. Yes, you can say “we,” when you mean, “I.” Yes, you can lock the door. “Sorry, Mrs. Gruzenski, your 30 minutes are up.” You can say that. But, you can also unlock the door. You can ask, “Shall I call you “Dr. Gruzenski”? “Would you like to be alone?” “Is this a convenient time?” “Is there something else I can do for you?” You can say, “You‟re the boss.” You can say, “Tell me about the best trip you ever took. Tell me about the time you saw your daughter born.”

…Decide. You can read the rules. Or, you can say, “Pardon me.” “Pardon this unwelcome interruption in your lives. Thank you for inviting me to help. Thank you for letting me visit. I am your guest, and I know it. Now, please, Mrs. Gruzenski, Dr. Gruzenski, what may I do for you?”…

To see the entire address go to or google ‘don berwick yale medical school address’…and please, share your comments.