When I told my wife I was writing a column titled “The Last Word,” her response was, “Well, that’s fitting!” Apparently, I like to have the last word in every conversation. Having the last word is not because I like to end discussions, it’s because I love conversation and discussing ideas with anyone I can in the hopes of learning about other people’s life experiences and philosophies. I have a few philosophies that I live by. Some of these philosophies are simple mottos, others are life advice that I have developed and like to share along the way, but most are my convictions.
As a general surgeon in south Arkansas, one philosophy I take very seriously is a medical version of the golden rule. Simply put, it is to treat every patient like they are family. Every patient I meet, I imagine that they are my own mother, father, brother or sister. If I would not recommend a treatment or surgery for one of my own family members, then I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else’s family either. The concept is simple, but the effect is profound. I have seen this approach to medicine pay off tremendously throughout my career in more ways than one. The biggest payoff is seeing patients become partners in the medical decision-making process and advocate for their own health care, thus leaving my practice happier and healthier. Implementing this philosophy in my practice has in turn led to greater patient satisfaction, helped my practice grow and led to a successful career.
Another of my life philosophies is, “Just say yes,” and it’s not as easy as it sounds. It requires you to agree to things that you normally wouldn’t, and while it can be very intimidating, it is also extremely rewarding. New experiences are the lifeblood of growth, and by just saying yes, I have had experiences that I never would’ve imagined, met people that have changed the trajectory of my life and pushed my limits in every possible direction. Although you may not know where the journey will take you, you won’t go anywhere unless you just say yes.
When I got a call about an opportunity in El Dorado, I was very interested in the prospect of practicing medicine in south Arkansas. Once my wife, Natalia, and I visited the city of El Dorado, I knew it was a town I could see us planting roots in and raising our family. We were nervous about the change but decided to just say yes. Within the first six months of moving to El Dorado from south Florida, I had attended fundraising galas, experienced new and traditionally loved cuisines, comedy shows, a world-class magic show and various music acts through the Murphy Arts District. I was stunned at how much this quaint little town had to offer. Although the town sold me, it was the Medical Center of South Arkansas that hooked me and where I applied this philosophy repeatedly. MCSA has given me the opportunity to just say yes and participate in community lectures, free hernia screening clinics, radio interviews, fundraising events, playing Santa for patients and team members and even dressing in costume for a dunking booth tank.
During my time here, I have had the opportunity to work beside some amazing people. The hospital has recognized my potential and has supported my endeavors and encourages growth. The next time you are presented with an uncomfortable opportunity, just say yes, and I’m sure you won’t regret it.
One thing I have brought with me to the Medical Center of South Arkansas is humor. In surgery, we have a saying, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” Working in health care, I often deal with death, illness, tragedy and disappointment, so there is ample opportunity to let it break your spirit and bring you down. Finding opportunities to laugh together is particularly important. Laughing is good for healing and good for the soul. Humor allows you to circumvent the negativity and bypass the depression, even if only for a minute.
During challenging times in life when presented with life-altering setbacks, and seemingly earth-shattering news, it’s easy to succumb to the gravity of the situation. In difficult times like these, finding humor in the situation has gotten me through some exceedingly difficult decisions. I also enjoy sharing humor with others, in hopes that it impacts them as much as it does me. Using humor in life lets you see there is always a silver lining, that there is always hope, and that no matter what today brings, the sun will always rise tomorrow.
Life is more than just preaching philosophies, it is living them. It is an opening of your consciousness that allows you to see every relationship and interaction as an opportunity of significance and part of a greater quest for happiness and purpose. Maybe that is why I always feel the need to have the last word.
Dr. Anthony Abraham is a general surgeon in El Dorado, affiliated with the Medical Center of South Arkansas.