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You Hurt Those You Love the Most....

There are few things that can shake the bedrock of a company like losing one of its leaders. The untimely January passing of Dr. Ken Pool - our founder, friend, mentor and chairman - brought a wave of profound grief and loss to many of us. He was a trailblazer - a visionary leader among peers, colleagues, government and industry. He was a noted physician, research scientist and innovator. He was a connoisseur of good food, awesome cars, and fine wine. He was a friend to so, so many - partly because of his self-deprecating sarcasm and a love of a good oxymoron.

As we pick up the emotional pieces, one thing we are sure of is Ken’s legacy and our ability to rally in its wake. Ken tackled problems few others would. People listened to Ken. Policies were made because of Ken. And there is no question that our jobs are easier because of the path Ken has forged. So when we took the opportunity to revisit the famed Ken Pool blog archives, it was not surprising that we found the wisdom, experience and anecdotes he shared to be just as timely and relevant as when they first poured from his keyboard. Re-sharing Dr. Pool's blog is therapeutic for all of us at OZ Systems. These posts are, as he was, often irreverent. Our hope is that it’s instructive for others as well.

You Hurt Those You Love the Most....

Dr. Ken Pool
(Early 2011)

As I approach starting this blog I feel a need to forewarn the reader. Self-deprecating sarcasm is one of my most often used literary instruments, as arrogant as calling what I will write “literary” may be. I need to express in advance that the sarcasm that applies to the profession of Hippocrates should be seen against a backdrop of profound respect, admiration, and affection.

Anyone who practices medicine knows the profession provides a multitude of rewards. The occasional and dramatic experience of knowing what and how to save a life is miraculous and intoxicating. The more frequent, if less dramatic, opportunity to make a difference in another’s life truly addicts the greatest practitioners. On a daily basis, physicians make it possible for people to live not just longer but better. Even intervening in the mortal condition of personal tragedies and losses, making them less destructive for the patient and the family, is an amazing opportunity. These experiences are not just the purview of a physician, but they are the fodder that sustains the best physicians.

The power of being the “Captain of the Ship” - although that approach is less and less in vogue - comes with the pressure to choose wisely. Each decision carries that lurking risk that if the choice is wrong, someone will suffer or even die. Each little decision…  A pediatrician friend once described his day in the office seeing patients with runny noses or runny bottoms. He admitted that each time he stepped into the exam room, he wondered if this runny nose that looked so much like the last 23 runny noses was in fact that one case of meningitis that, left untreated, could leave the child in that room dead and the parents with a lifetime of grief. Each and every time he stood with his hand on the knob to enter the exam room he worried that he would miss that case. It is no surprise that the individuals who are capable of facing that repeated challenge throughout their days have above-average ego strength. This is not intended to justify egotism but to point out that self-selection removes from the profession many who do not have that degree of self-confidence that looks so much like ego.

When a patient doesn’t recover well, and especially when they die - which they do at times no matter what we do - the family will grieve. It should come as no surprise that the physician grieves as well. As we grieve we may look for solace in our bond with others who grieve. However, as pop psychology has taught us, one of the “stages of grief” is anger. I have watched physicians stand as the target for that anger - often when they could easily have deflected or redirected it - because the alternative targets, such as other family members, might leave scars in relationships far more intertwined than those with the physician. The physician accepts not only the anger but forgoes the solace of sharing grief. An unwritten book of my earlier years was entitled “The Physician Grieves Alone.” Had it been written, it would have chronicled how I had seen physicians respond, adapt, and cope.  Some of their responses were inspiring. Others were disappointing. Some were strengthened while others were worn down daily by it. But one and all pay the price. Grief is part of the daily fare for those who choose this profession.

I could, and perhaps on quiet “news days” will, indulge in more stories from the road about these women and men I admire so much. But most days I will present us in less than favorable light because we have a special responsibility. I believe we should be, and are, up to the task. So let the games begin and let the reader beware....