By Dr. Rana Awdish
I had the priviledge of hearing Dr. Awdish speak at a conference in the summer of 2019. The story she told on stage was so compelling and touching. Her desire to make empathy and communication just as important in the exam room as tests and diagnosis was intriguing. I bought her book to learn more about her experience – it does not disappoint.
Dr. Awdish’s role was caregiver. As a pulmonologist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI, she was responsible for overseeing her patients and their care. That role was reversed at the end of her medical training when she was pregnant with her first child and experienced multiple organ failure. In an instant, in a place where she was normally providing care, she was now the patient. Awdish beautifully writes about her experience – the pain of loss, the frustration of being a patient, and the opportunity for our health care providers to step outside of their roles of being fixers and really connecting to their patients.
“Medicine cannot heal in a vacuum; it requires connection…I knew we valued the cure, the goal, the win. We were far less comfortable with the gray, shadowed area of suffering. We excelled at providing complex, precision medicine in a way that appeared almost effortless, yet at times struggled clumsily when it came to empathy.” Awdish challenges us to look beyond providing reason, data and answers and instead bearing witness to the struggles our patients are facing.
More recently, Dr. Awdish was featured on NPR’s This American Life, The Reprieve. This episode took a look at how Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit handled the surge of COVID-19 patients earlier this spring. Awdish’s wasn’t featured for her recommendations for ventilator allocation or PPE shortages, rather her role in talking with health care providers about their experiences and offering emotional support during a traumatic time.
Reviewed and written by Katy Velten, MSHPM Board Member