The Imperative of Doing
Just over a year ago, a good friend of mine tweeted this, and it’s been sitting in my brain, for free, ever since:
I’ll admit that my first reaction to this tweet was vigorous approval. Healthcare faces hefty challenges that tweeting and snapshot publications alone won’t solve.
If you’ve hung around the global surgery space, you’ve become so familiar with these snapshot publications that they’ve turned mundane:
- 30% of the global disease burden needs access to a surgical system
- 70% of the world’s population doesn’t have access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery
- 81 million people are driven into poverty each year by the costs of surgery
These snapshots paint a particularly dire picture: continents-worth of people precluded from the surgery they need, or driven into poverty when they get it.
If it sounds like a crisis, that’s because it is. And in a crisis, my friend is right: we’ve got to do more doing and less talking.
Vigorous agreement. Except…
Anything is better than nothing
Think back to early 2020, to the beginning of a different sort of crisis.
As Covid tore through Italy, Spain, France, New York City, were you also moved to stop talking and start doing? Whether it was donating blood, volunteering at your local hospital, or making masks, did you feel like you needed to do something—anything, really—to help?
I know I did.
I’d hoped that whatever skills I might have could be useful while, at the coal face, ICU physicians, nurses, aides, and techs sacrificed their health (and sometimes their lives) to stem the pandemic.
But look, I’m a cancer-surgeon-turned-health-policy-guy. People at the coal face absolutely did not need my skills during a pandemic of a respiratory virus.
In fact, inserting myself and my limited skills, no matter how well intentioned, stood only to make things worse. As much as I wanted to do something, the best thing I could have done was get out of the way.