It has been said that an empty space becomes a stage the moment one or more persons occupy it. The drama is obvious when such a space becomes an emergency department or an operating room or an intensive care unit. Men and women with dazzling and intensely targeted, specialized skills are found to be very human, often succeeding, sometimes not, always compelling the imagination of the uninitiated viewer.
The US public's misunderstanding of the breadth of that drama poses a problem if we are to confront constructively the serious inadequacies in health care in the United States today. For me, that misunderstanding began when I was 9 years old. My cousin, a medical student at Yale at that time, brought me and my father to the Sterling Hall of Medicine. Entering that space was for me a threshold experience for that moment and for the rest of my life. The entrance hall looked awesome in the eyes of a 9-year-old. I impetuously said then, and I have never demurred, “I am going to be a doctor.” I had no grasp at all about what being a doctor really meant.