“Patients come to doctors with complex problems. Have peace with them. Identify with the patient and not with his disease.” Dr. Eugene Stead, Jr.
Dr. Stead had a profound effect on my father. My father works to ensure that the compassion, thoughtfulness and expertise Dr. Stead bestowed on him is passed on to his sons.
My father gave me a book of Steadisms, Just Say For Me. While Dr. Stead’s focus was medical health care, so much of what he says applies easily to my work, mental health care. Much of his focus is on the whole patient in all his or her complexity and dynamism; he is also sure to focus on the person, not the disease. Both of these are certainly essential aspects of care when the presenting problem is anxiety, depression or conflict rather tachycardia or COPD. These ideals are particularly pertinent to my work and deeply grounded in the way my father speaks of his work and his hopes for my therapy practice. Here are a few more Steadisms that speak to my work:
“Long after the fever is gone changes in structure may persist. It should be obvious that people don’t get well all at once. In a sick person many changes take place that require some time to return to normal. It has always intrigued me that so many doctors hold on to the naive notion that once an underlying defect is controlled, the patient is well.”
“A doctor makes a mistake if he thinks he knows more about a patient than the patient does himself.”
“Tact, sympathy and understanding are expected of the physician for the patient is no mere collection of symptoms signs, disordered functions, damaged organs and disturbed emotions. He is human, fearful and hopeful, seeking relief, help and reassurance. To the physician, as to the anthropologist, nothing human is strange or repulsive. He cares for people because he cares for them.”
“A physician must have great tolerance for he sees people at their worst.”
“I have always felt the important question is how much health is there, rather than how much illness there is.”