Let's Fight Negativity
Jason S. Slakter, MD
Is it me or are things really much worse in the world than they used to be? I realized this morning that after listening to the news I had felt a sense of relief and almost euphoria. Had someone discovered a new source of energy? Had a cure for cancer been discovered? No, instead it seems that overnight there had not been another natural disaster, radiation leak or terrorist attack of significance. Rather than the presence of good news, it seems the absence of terrible news is what we all look forward to as a positive sign. When and how did all of this change?
Perhaps it is my perspective that has changed, or my memory is slipping, but I do not remember things being quite this bad when I was younger. Is that a function of true changes in the world or the result of a change in the way the media reports things in today's society? Clearly, given the economic downturn and the difficulties that millions of people around the world face in meeting their basic needs, there is a general sense of anger, fear and frustration. However, the old adage that “bad news sells newspapers” seems to hold true for all forms of media. This is becoming increasingly true in an era of technology that allows for photos of tragedy and devastation to be acquired so easily and disseminated as part of these news reports.
You cannot blame everything on the media; however, this negative attitude has clearly permeated our specialty as well. I recall attending the AAO Annual Meeting for the first time as a young resident and being in awe of the multitude of diagnostic and therapeutic options available to treat ocular disease. Back then, the introduction of a new diagnostic or therapeutic modality was met with excitement and thoughts of its potential medical applications. Now, the first thoughts that come to mind with these new inventions are “How much is this going to cost? Will we get reimbursed? Will I have room, and how am I going to fit this into my practice?” I do not think this is the way it has to be!
As individuals who have gone into medicine as a profession, we are supposed to have a particular perspective on things. When we walk into a hospital, we do not think of suffering and death but instead of the life-saving operations taking place and the recovery that patients will experience from the care that they receive. When patients walk into our offices with AMD, for example, we do not, or at least should not, think about the loss that they have sustained but rather the potential improvements that we can offer to their vision and quality of life. However, changes over the past several years have forced us to become businessmen rather than physicians, managers rather than healers.
While I do not think we can change the world, I would at least like to encourage us to try to change our own professional lives. For those of us who have been around for a while, we should try to recapture some of the excitement and fascination we had early in our careers with the possibilities available to us to help those in our care. For the younger people who are just starting out, I ask that you try not to give into the cynicism and negativity that permeates our society, as well as our profession. If we all try just a little bit, perhaps we will truly have something to smile about in the future.