It was a journey that almost ended abruptly, but on July 12, I became a graduate of the first-ever “Wear the White Coat” class.
Conducted by the Greater Louisville Medical Society, “Wear the White Coat” is an initiative that allows legislative, business and community leaders to shadow local physicians and brainstorm ideas on improving health care in Louisville.
“The purpose of ‘Wear the White Coat’ comes from the fact that a profession needs to communicate with society,” said Dr. David E. Bybee, president of GLMS. “We need to talk to society and they need to talk to us. We’re trying to create mechanisms to do that.”
Day one of “Wear the White Coat” began at the Louisville Science Center, where a group of about 30 business executives, government officials, TV anchors and others convened for the opening ceremony. At 9 a.m., we began the day with introductions and a two-and-a-half-hour viewing of open-heart surgery broadcast live from Jewish Hospital. During the operation, we were able to ask the surgical team questions via satellite, and later spoke to Dr. Bybee about what we had witnessed.
“I think what the medical society is doing is a good thing, and it should be emulated by other professions,” said participant Lacey T. Smith, local business leader and founder of Quick Think Inc. “If you are watching one of those procedures as we did on television, it comes home to you in a way that you would never experience again unless it were happening to you or some loved one. That’s a rare opportunity to say, ‘You know, maybe I should stop smoking. Maybe I should stop drinking so much. Maybe I should exercise more.’ It really brings clarity to you.”
At the conclusion of the open-heart surgery, the class headed to lunch where we were greeted by the doctors hosting our shadow visits during the week. Dr. James Patrick Murphy of Murphy Pain Center introduced himself as my physician preceptor and quickly began an explanation of his work and why he was excited for “Wear the White Coat.”
“As a medical society, we wanted to increase the awareness of what physicians do,” Murphy said. “A lot of TV shows out there skew people’s opinion of what it’s like to be a physician. We thought that we should bring in people who are influential in the community and let them kind of walk in our shoes for a little while, ask questions and hopefully leave with a better feel for what it’s like to do this job.”
After the next two days with Murphy, I certainly left with an increased awareness of his duties as physician. I didn’t just learn about his occupation by acting as the honorary “doctor for a day,” though. I also gained an appreciation for his work by becoming an inadvertent patient.
On day two of “Wear the White Coat,” I arrived at Clark Memorial Hospital, where I was to watch Murphy implant an electrode into a patient’s spine. After only 20 minutes inside the operating room, I had to take an early exit from the three-hour surgery. Despite telling myself I could handle the sight of blood and convincing the nurses that I felt just fine, I stepped out into the hallway, where I fainted not once, but twice!
When I awoke after the second fall, I was lying on a stretcher, breathing through an oxygen tube, with a blood pressure cuff on my arm. A team of nurses stood over me, assuring me that everything was OK and that even they had fainted once or twice in their careers.
It was then, amidst the chaos, that I discovered the key lesson I would take away from the “Wear the White Coat” experience.
As I lay there helpless on a stretcher, accepting the fact that I’m not destined to become a doctor, I gained a greater appreciation for all those who are. I left the hospital that day thankful for the physicians, nurses and medical practitioners who, unlike me, can take on the high-stress responsibility of holding someone’s life in their hands. These individuals don’t just take care of scrapes and wounds, but they also have a genuine concern for our well-being. And quite frankly, without them, some of us wouldn’t be here today.
On day three, I completed my shadow visit at Dr. Murphy’s office at Murphy Pain Center. I was able to withstand watching both a spinal cord and ankle injection while shadowing the clinical supervisor, Stephanie Kimmell.
I saw a different side of Murphy’s occupation at his office. I witnessed the interaction between doctor and patient and the loving support the staff offered to everyone who walked through the door. Murphy and his team went above and beyond to alleviate pain for their patients. They wanted to know their patients’ stories and kept them at ease throughout their recovery.
As Murphy said, “It’s not just about saving lives; it’s about creating a better living experience.”
From shadowing Murphy, I learned how valuable the medical society is to creating that better living experience. By walking in a doctor’s shoes – and later a patient’s – I realized how lucky we are to have individuals who not only care about our health and safety, but also our well-being.
After the “Wear the White Coat” experience, I certainly won’t take our health care industry for granted. I see the importance of supporting the future of the medical society and the need to educate youth on health and well-being. Our lives depend on the doctors, nurses and medical practitioners in our community. Just a few days ago, I know mine did.
To the GLMS for this amazing opportunity, and to all those in the medical field who serve our community: thank you.
For information on “Wear the White Coat” and GLMS, visit www.glms.org.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Cover Stories
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).