A Quarter Century's Worth of Furniture

Howard Brody photoWhat is it like leaving the place that has been my home for the past quarter century? I grew up here, as a professional and in other ways. New vistas and new challenges are exciting, but it is very difficult to leave behind my housemates who have been with me this for so long.

One of the colleagues in the new home I am going to paid me a nice compliment. He had last spent time with me up close about 14 years ago. He had thought that back then I showed a number of good qualities, but he was also pleased to see that today some of the rough edges had been rubbed off. If he’s right, I have no doubt that my housemates helped a lot with the sandpaper.

As much as I will miss my housemates, they have made me a very handsome offer. They are going to let me take some of the furniture from the old place with me. In my new home, I’ll be able to look fondly at these furnishings and remember my former associates all the more clearly.

So what do I plan to take with me?

First off, there is competence and professional responsibility. My housemates are teachers down to the marrow of their bones. They care deeply that those who come into contact with us take away something of value. I have never done teaching with any of them when I have not taken away some new tips on how to become a better teacher.

Next, I had thought of taking honesty. When I was starting to think about leaving, I took the first opportunity to talk with all my housemates about my thoughts, plans, and concerns. It would have been unfathomable to treat them any other way. Any hesitation or prevarication on my part would have been a churlish recompense for the way that they have treated me for so many years.

I definitely want to take compassion. This past year, which caused me to consider leaving the place that had been my home for so long, was in some ways very painful. At every step, I felt the support of my housemates. When one of our beloved housemates died recently, the sense of loss and the concern for her family were palpable as one walked though the rooms of our house. I hope to live up to this standard of compassion in how I treat all my new colleagues in my new place.

Respect for others is another thing I want to bring with me. In our house, we have taken many actions and made many decisions. I cannot recall when, if ever, we did anything by vote. We have talked and discussed and listened, and always have found ways to agree on what was best. Again, I hope to be able to rise to that standard in how I treat my new colleagues.

Finally, there is social responsibility. My housemates have always been concerned for those who are ignored by our society, those whose voices have not been heard. They have taught me that this thing we call bioethics and humanities in health care is not worth calling as such if it does not welcome the voices that have not been heard and adopt the concerns that have not been addressed.

I hope that some of our students in the College of Human Medicine read what I have written here. They will, I trust, recognize my furniture inventory. In the College, we call this list the virtues of professionalism. We hope that they will strive toward these virtues in how they treat their patients.

I hope that my faculty colleagues in other departments are as fortunate as I have been. I hope you can say that you treat each other the same way that my housemates have treated me—that as faculty, we model for ourselves and our colleagues, as well as for our students, this list of virtues. (If not, I invite you to imagine how things could change.)

There is one immensely rewarding thing about my furniture inventory. I can take as much of this furniture with me as I can possibly haul away, and plenty will still remain in the house that I am leaving.


Medical Humanities Report
Volume 28, No. 1, Summer 2006