As we approach July 4th, reflection on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” may be appropriate in the context of healthcare practices. Most interesting is the word “pursuit.” The freedoms that we Americans enjoy and celebrate on July the 4th are mostly about our freedom to pursue and in healthcare, pursuit is most often applied to entrepreneurial pursuit.
In years past, as Physicians graduated from medical school, they not only became doctors but also entrepreneurs. They most often looked for space to open a practice and hang out their shingle. Sometimes they joined a partner or group, or went to work in a hospital setting or research setting.
It is that entrepreneurial spirit that has built the healthcare system as we now know it. Was greed a motive? I’m sure it is sometimes; it comes with the territory. But most often, these doctors chose the profession out of a desire to help people over-come the challenges of injury, disease, disaster and even war. The US healthcare system, because of it’s entrepreneurial nature, built world class institutions where wellness and fighting disease became the first priority. Small town physicians became leading citizens because of their devotion to the public, often without full or complete payment. They cared about people and they cared for people. Yes they charged for that service, and yes, people understood that they were paying not only for what the physician did, but for what he/she knew. They were trusted to make right decisions in the best interest of their patients. Did they succeed 100% of the time? No, but their pursuit of better healthcare resulted in the polio vaccine, antibiotics, open heart surgery, and better medicines for the treatment of chronic diseases.
We can find fault with healthcare providers. We can find fault with those who have become rich delivering healthcare services. However, for just a few minutes on this special day let’s pause and say thank-you for the tireless efforts of doctors, nurses, PA’s and healthcare technicians who in their personal pursuit of happiness, to which our constitution implores, they decided to enter into a profession with limitless opportunities to come to the aid of the sick and injured all across our nation.