So yesterday, I was a part of the inaugural Lone Star Book Fest at the Lone Star College– Kingwood campus. First, let me say it was a really impressive event. The staff, the layout, everything was really well done. I could write more about that, but what made the biggest impression on me, was a conversation I had with an 11 year-old boy while doing a signing in the author’s area. I was talking with someone else, at the time, but I saw him pick my new book, “How To Age Gracefully And Escape With Your Dignity.”
I think he was drawn to the cartoon on the front.
For whatever reason, he picked it up and started thumbing through. Then he laughed.
“You think it’s funny?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Is this you?”
He pointed at the flap.
“It is,” I answered.
“You’re a doctor.”
“Yep,” I said.
“And did you draw these?” he asked, holding up the cartoon.
I confessed that yes I had.
“I have a question,” he said.
I don’t know what I was expecting; art criticism, some pointers, something. What he said next impressed me and took me completely out of the saddle.
“As a doctor, what do you think is the most important thing a doctor can do to help a patient?”
Oddly enough it was almost, word-for-word, the same question asked by an 82 year-old audience member a few days before when I spoke to a group in Oklahoma. I told him that there were many things that are important. Competence, knowledge, compassion- all are necessary for a good doctor patient relationship, but I asked him if even with all that if he didn’t understand medical instructions what good would the rest do? If I- as his hypothetical doctor- wasn’t clear about the instructions for or the importance of taking a medication, or if say, he didn’t understand why I said he needed a surgery, or what he should or shouldn’t do post-operatively what harm could come.
He got it right off and told me that what I was talking about was communication. I agreed. I added that that was why I had written the books, to help patients and their doctors communicate better. He completely got it. Then he told me that he thought the cartoons were a good idea to keep things from being dull.
It occurred to me that I may very well have just met a future Surgeon General of the United States. It also occurred to me that sometimes we get all caught up in the seeming social distance between generations and just when we start believing that…something like yesterday happens to show we are not so far apart after all.
All I could think was, “Thanks for the reminder.”
Good for you, kiddo!
Matthew Minson, M.D.
(My compliments, kudos, and thanks to Dr. John Barr and Lone Star College-Kingwood for the invitation and for a splendid accomplishment with of the Lone Star Book Festival. You should be proud.)