Self Care Is Key

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Maybe you’ve heard of this children’s fable.

There was once a countryman who possessed the most wonderful goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.

The countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day.

He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the goose and cutting it open.

But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious goose was dead.

The traditional moral of the story is to reject greed — be happy with the blessings you have, because greed will lead you to losing it all.

But if we changed one fact in this story, a whole new, important lesson is to be learned from this story: What if the countryman and the goose was the same person?

We are all productive geese. As students, we produce experiments and ideas that advance science.

We give consultations, perform procedures, and give hugs to patients as we heal them. And yet, we’re also egg vendors.

We constantly demand more from ourselves. We’re never satisfied with our skills. And we’re willing to push ourselves to the brink to be better for our patients and for our research.

I recognize that sometimes these things are out of our control, but when we’re working multiple 12-hour work days plus weekends, or working on our data sets at 4 or 5 a.m. to meet a deadline, we’re slowly killing our ability to produce golden eggs.

This year, I want to challenge every single student here to be proactive in consistently examining their lives to make sure that they’re not only surviving but thriving.

There exists a culture of working until exhaustion as a norm in health care and science, and this especially rings true at UCSF.

It’s rooted in the great history we have on this campus — all the advancements we’ve made, the accomplishments we’ve earned, and the people we’ve helped are all based on the tireless efforts of our predecessors.

But we are a new generation of scientists and healers, one that recognizes that every human being has limits.

When we understand how to live a fulfilling life outside of our work, we're more present when we're in the hospital or in the lab

Our patients can appreciate when their doctor is doing a good job because they got enough sleep last night. When we learn how to say "no" to unreasonable requests, we can say "yes" more often to our loved ones and to experiencing life. There must be some days where we choose ourselves and the people we love over our job.

And if you’re not willing to do this for yourself, then do it for the people you care about. Being a provider or a scientist is in some ways inherently selfish.

Ironically, the time we spend training to help people and advance science cuts into the time we could spend with the ones we love the most.

Constantly pushing yourself to exhaustion doesn’t just impact you. When you break, the ones you love the most are left to pick up the pieces, and it’s just not fair to them.

My hope is that by putting personal wellness into focus this year, down the line, some of these basic lessons will be remembered when a career is harming the relationships you have with your friends, your children, your partners.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, GPSA and Arts and Events will be hosting a Silent Disco on the fifth floor of the Parnassus Library from noon to 1 p.m.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, there will be adult coloring books and an acoustic performance on the 4th floor of the library. I hope that some students can take time out of their day to relax and be silly.

We’re hoping to get a similar event at Mission Bay going this quarter. In November, Student Health will be hosting open forums at both campuses where students can voice exactly how their overall wellbeing can be better supported by the school and GPSA.

And I recognize that some events that the school has hosted in the past may have been duds.

We’re trying our best to make events that are fun and hold lectures that help you find the best way to improve how you take care of yourself.

Please, please, please e-mail me, your school representatives, or come to our GPSA meetings so that we know how to help you live your best life.

As it turns out, one of the most important patients you’re ever going to care for in your career is yourself.

One of the biggest discoveries you can make is what a fulfilling, balanced life looks like. And for the sake of ourselves and the many people who depend on us we must be successful.