Do No Harm

THE ORIGINAL HIPPOCRATIC OATH begins by evoking Apollo, god of the sun and light, archery, music, healing, and the plague.

And I wonder, for all the power the gods are supposed to have, why it is mortals who are told to do no harm.

The Hippocratic Oath does not, in its original nor modern forms, say the words “Do No Harm.” And this is a fact that I find unfortunately fitting. It is fitting for the Hippocratic Oath to neglect these words because the phrase “Do No Harm” has become the mantra of a world that, unfortunately, does quite a bit of harm to quite a few people. And too few people with the power to change it even realize “Do No Harm” is missing from their practice.

I am beginning this blog because I am entering medical school in August, and I am terrified. It is easy to be young, naïve, and say that you intend to do no harm. It is much harder to be a part of a system that harms people and work towards reducing that harm. I feel naïve even saying that — that I will be working to reduce that harm — but it’s part of my medical school’s mission, so that’s something. Right?

I still have hope.

I will be one of ten students entering the Columbia Vagelos School of Physicians and Surgeons as part of the Columbia-Bassett program, a program that focuses on a trauma-informed approach to medicine and teaches students to identify and address problems in the health care system. I feel immensely lucky to be a part of this group. I am hoping that, of all medical educations I can have, one that explicitly says on its website that the health care delivery system in the United States is under terrible duress will get something right. I hope it can give me the tools I need to truly do no harm — or, at the very least, to the least amount of harm I can while working to reduce the overall amount of harm routinely done to patients across the country.

Blogs are about creating narratives. And narratives, I believe, are inherently prone to idealism and sugarcoating. I hope that this blog is neither of those things. My goal for this blog is to keep myself honest and to provide an outlet for art — expression and cultivation, for my writing and my gardening, respectively — that will hopefully keep me more human.

Those are the things I care about most in this journey: honesty, humanity, and harm-reduction. Hopefully, I will look back at this post in four years, and not be ashamed be proud.

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