The first doctor to inspire me by his good deeds was Tom Dooley. When I was 12 or 13, I read his books Deliver Us From Evil, The Edge of Tomorrow, and The Night They Burned the Mountain.
For some reason, trying to remember the titles now, I thought one of them was called Miles to Go Before I Sleep. Maybe the Robert Frost poem was quoted in one of the books, but at any rate, that's how I remember Dooley. He was a man who had many miles to go before he slept, working tirelessly, as I remember it, to bring medical aid to the peoples of Southeast Asia.
Dooley spent no more than six or seven years at this effort before he died of cancer, but his books and lecture tours raised not only American money but American consciousness about an area of the world that was soon to have an amazing impact on us as a nation. I suspect it was in his books that I first heard of Vietnam and Laos.
The most recent doctor to inspire me by his good deeds is Steven D. Kamajian, and you can read about him in the following article. Dr. Kamajian is the most recent of our "Doctors Who Go the Extra Mile."
Those three paragraphs are as far as I'd gotten in this memo when I went home at the end of the day on Sept. 10. Now I'm sitting down to finish it on Sept. 12, and I have a whole new set of doctors who inspire me.
They are the doctors who, for more than 24 hours now, have been working to save the lives of the people injured in the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, VA.
They are the doctors who will join those rescue efforts as volunteers mobilize in all parts of the country.
And they are also the doctors who, no matter how much they want to join those on the front lines, stay at home to care for the rest of Americatheir own patients and those of their colleagues working at the disaster scenes.
American doctors are often criticized as being callous, only in it for the money. The doctors the nation saw on television on Sept. 11 (and in more days to come, I'm afraid) are anything but callous, anything but self-centered. Theyand scores of EMTs, nurses, and other health care professionalsmobilized immediately, not knowing when, in what numbers, or in how horrific a condition the victims would arrive.
Many of them worked round-the-clock, not knowing if their own loved ones were safe, pushing their own emotional trauma to the side for the time being.
I started this memo with the express purpose of asking you to nominate candidates for our "Doctors Who Go the Extra Mile" series. We think it's important to recognize the good that doctors do, profiling your colleagues who've spent years going beyond the demands of day-to-day practice to do something special for patients, the profession, or the community at large.
I still want those nominations but, sadly, my focus has changed from a few individuals who do good things to an entire profession that deserves recognitionand thanksfor rising to the occasion. As I write this, I fear the doctors of this country, especially those in New York and Arlington, have way too many miles to go before they'll sleepcertainly before they'll sleep easily.
The entire staff of Medical Economics joins me in honoring the scores of readers who have worked tirelessly to aid the victims of the tragedy that was Sept. 11, 2001, and our heartfelt sympathy goes to those who have lost friends and family in the attacks.
Marianne Mattera. Memo from the Editor: Miles to go. Medical Economics 2001;19:7.