The 2023 MedConference: Why Care?

Seeking lasting ways to sustain the healthcare profession, 85 medical professionals gathered in Minnesota in October for the annual MedConference.

From beginning to end, we enjoyed another meaningful and eye-opening MedConference. From the speakers’ dinner, sharing our experiences and perspectives, to the benefits and challenges of AI with some Bob Dylan mixed in, the opportunity to engage with other professionals from a variety of backgrounds is always stimulating and thought-provoking. Warm embraces, some new faces, and a new venue all added to the uniqueness and anticipated quality of our annual MedConference.

I found Dr. Castelli’s description of the ‘gaze’ beautiful and her care of the spiritual, psychological, and emotional conditions of the children she serves speaks to our human need for connection and care beyond food and shelter. For me, it was a reminder that we can change our ‘gaze’ by shifting our perspective to include new horizons.

The panel speaking about post-pandemic medical education reiterated the importance of passion for the work, having mentors, the impact of life experiences, the influence of teachers, and being ‘present’ to patients. Each panelist also spoke of a particular moment when they realized that a conversation, a comment, or an expectation from someone clarified or solidified their direction. Words and phrases such as ‘intentionality’, ‘honor your treasure’, and ‘live with intensity’ connected with me deeply and presented an invitation to continually reconnect with our heart, soul, and our patients.

As a part of the nursing panel, I was honored to be able to share some of my story and to hear the stories of the other panelists speaking of both the joys of nursing as well as the challenges. We don’t yet fully understand the impact of Covid on the nursing profession and on healthcare professionals in general. What is clear, though, is that our commitment to the patient must be first. For nurses as well as physicians, mentoring, finding your ‘tribe’ and modeling behavior are all key components that foster longevity and improve care at the bedside. In rediscovering compassion, we are reminded that healthcare is a service industry. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we need to lead with love, and we need constant self-reflection and self-awareness.

From our patient witness we heard that many responsibilities fall to the patient, such as making appointments and securing their treatments while being ill. However, our witness expressed how she felt the strong connection to and encouragement from her doctor had a profoundly positive effect on her emotional well-being. Her doctor’s belief and confidence in her helped her to believe in herself and her possibility to heal. Through house calls by her primary physician, she was seen as a person and not just a diagnosis. Additionally, the “Unity in Healing” session was an endearing and entertaining explanation of a twenty-year commitment to the strength of friendship and fellowship that has sustained a group of physicians at Mayo clinic through difficult professional and personal hurdles that resulted in a deep emotional connection for each other as professionals and friends. They established an SEC (spiritual enrichment community) creating a safe and sacred environment in which they found solace and support for one another.

Saturday evening ended with Holy Mass, companionship, pizza, and a performance of songs written by Bob Dylan. It was a beautiful ending to an amazing day. On Sunday, we reconvened and learned about the incredible life of Doctor Carlo Urbani, the first person to identify a new illness and isolate the SARS virus. His immediate actions contained this deadly virus to a single hospital, protecting the world, yet costing him his life. His life was described as a 47 year long ‘yes’. A man who enjoyed life outside of his work but whose ‘gaze’ was always focused on service to others. And finally, we look at what impact AI can have in the world. There is great potential for good and that must outweigh the possibility of those who would use it for personal gain or power. For many of us, AI is an abstract concept that we don’t understand well. Thankfully, we have physicians and others who can recognize and harness its potential. There is much more to come. As always, I left the MedConference feeling spiritually lifted and challenged as well. Full of a reaffirmed desire to fix my gaze on the patient, the possible, and the eternal.

Frances, New York, NY