While I am grateful all year round for the amazing work and care our physicians provide to patients, it is right that we should take a day, nationally, to remember and recognize the tremendous dedication and sacrifices physicians make each and every day (and night, and weekend, and holiday) to provide their skills and expertise to us, our families, our friends, and our communities.
I especially want to express my gratitude to the incredible physicians in the St. Luke’s Health System – primary care physicians and specialists, based in our ambulatory care and hospital settings, rural and urban.
I became a doctor based in large part on the influence my own family physician had on me as a child, through the conversations and work I engaged in with physicians when I was in my teens, and later still, through volunteering at a hospital in Texas.
I was struck by physicians’ abiding curiosity, their passion for helping others and solving complex problems, and most meaningfully, their care and caring for all people.
From those conversations and from what I observed, it was interesting, motivating, exciting, and rewarding to be a doctor, and I wanted to join them, despite the many personal sacrifices I knew would be involved.
In my 33 years as a primary care physician and physician executive, the career has changed. It has become more complicated, more fast-paced, and more demanding in many ways. Many physicians in private practice and solo practice have found the requirements, expenses, and regulations to be so onerous that they cannot continue to carry on independently and have joined up with larger systems. I get that; I was one of them.
Doctors also don’t last in the field as long as they used to, and there are many reasons for that. I get that, too.
But here is the thing I know about doctors. They are nearly superhuman. That’s not an expression of vanity; it is to say that they are high-achievers, often skilled at multiple specialties and hobbies and sports at the same time, driven, and dogged in doing and being the best they can be.
Which is why I know that American health care will be just fine. American physicians are taking up the challenge of modern health care with the same passion and commitment and determination that I have always seen in my colleagues.
On this National Doctor’s Day, I salute you. I admire you. I could not be in better company, and I appreciate all that you do, each and every day, for St. Luke’s and all those who honor us by allowing us to be their health system and you to be their physician.
David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.