My Two Cents on The Embrace Sculpture Honoring MLK Jr and Coretta Scott King

I first saw a photo of the sculpture honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King, called “The Embrace” a couple of days ago. I remember my first impression being that it would have been nice to see a full sculpture of the couple rather than disembodied arms.

Sena mentioned it today because it was unveiled at Boston Commons. This was just before my mindfulness meditation, so I just told her that I saw the picture of it and said I would have to think about it some more.

As I sat in meditation, it occurred to me that “The Embrace” expressed what I think is a basic abstract idea, which is the challenge for us to embrace the notion that we’re all humans who ought to accept each other, and be kind and generous to one another.

That’s what I think the Kings did. That’s why Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize.

You could make a sculpture of the King as a couple embracing each other after he won the Nobel Prize. It would have been beautiful. On the other hand, you could make a sculpture which tries to do more than that. How difficult would it be to make a representation of what it might look like if all of us embraced our humanity—and each other?

It sounds too difficult. Yet the artist managed to do just that. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

MLK Week Redux for the New University of Iowa Psychiatry Fellows

I discovered the University of Iowa Dept of Psychiatry had a very successful match, filling key residency slots in Child Psychiatry, Addiction Medicine, and Consultation-Liaison fellowships. Congratulations! That’s a big reason to celebrate.

This reminds me of my role as a teacher. I retired from the department two and a half years ago. But I’ll always remember how hard the residents and fellows worked.

And that’s why I’m reposting my blog “Remembering My Calling.”:

Back when I had the blog The Practical C-L Psychiatrist, I wrote a post about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observation in 2015. It was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on January 19, 2015 under the title “Remembering our calling: MLK Day 2015.”  I have a small legacy as a teacher. As I approach retirement next year, I reflect on that. When I entered medical school, I had no idea what I was in for. I struggled, lost faith–almost quit. I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve been privileged to learn from the next generation of doctors.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached, I wondered: What’s the best way for the average person to contribute to lifting this nation to a higher destiny? What’s my role and how do I respond to that call?

I find myself reflecting more about my role as a teacher to our residents and medical students. I wonder every day how I can improve as a role model and, at the same time, let trainees practice both what I preach and listen to their own inner calling. After all, they are the next generation of doctors.

But for now they are under my tutelage. What do I hope for them?

I hope medicine doesn’t destroy itself with empty and dishonest calls for “competence” and “quality,” when excellence is called for.

I hope that when they are on call, they’ll mindfully acknowledge their fatigue and frustration…and sit down when they go and listen to the patient.

I hope they listen inwardly as well, and learn to know the difference between a call for action, and a cautionary whisper to wait and see.

I hope they won’t be paralyzed by doubt when their patients are not able to speak for themselves, and that they’ll call the families who have a stake in whatever doctors do for their loved ones.

And most of all I hope leaders in medicine and psychiatry remember that we chose medicine because we thought it was a calling. Let’s try to keep it that way.

You know, I’m on call at the hospital today and I tried to give my trainees the day off. They came in anyway.

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