The Note on the Medical Chart Note

It’s mid January, and the holidays already seem like a distant past with visions of new goals and aspirations on the horizon. This past December I was sifting through my holiday decoration box and was taken back in time to photocards from years past. As I ruffled through that box in search of my gold “holiday card pen”, nostalgia whacked me in the head with a “card” written on a medical chart note from a doctor I once worked with who has since, sadly, passed away.

They (whoever “they” are) say that success comes from a strong belief in oneself- that if you don’t believe in your abilities, nothing else matters.  Well, I get that, and certainly buy into it- but there’s something unmeasurably powerful in having someone you admire unexpectedly declare their belief in you.  This past December, as I sifted through my rickety decoration box that harbored ribbons, bells, and old cards, I was reminded of that person who believed in me early on in my career.

Looking back at that note catapulted me back 12 years to Oshawa, a small town outside of Toronto (to the ppl who live there, it’s probably not small- but hey, I’m from the NYC area where any other city is comparatively “small”).  I could taste the steeped tea from the Tim Hortons coffee shop in the hospital lobby that we would drink on our breaks and recall conversations about gardening, genetics, and life.

The note read:

“Ushta, you probably haven’t started many jobs with a gift and a “card”, but it’s Christmas and I wanted you to know how much we all appreciate your work.  You hit the ground running and we’ll try not to keep you running too fast. Happy Holidays, Anne. PS, Sorry I ran out of cards.”

As I read, and reread the 4 lines in that note, a smile organically appeared and reminded me of one of the last conversations we had.  I was applying for a clinical genetic counseling position after working in a marketing role and had asked her to be a reference for me. She replied by stating, “I was wondering how long you’d be able to stay away from working directly with patients. You’ve got great talent- now go help patients and use it”.

Reading these notes all these years later is a gentle reminder that I am on the right path and somehow gives me the confidence to continue to take leaps.  So, as much as we prescribe tough love and rough it till you make it; along the way don’t forget to take the time to tell someone they’re simply doing a good job. You never know the lasting impact that it can have on them- like 12 yrs out a long way. Now go find a colleague, coworker, student, boss, friend, whomever and make a difference in their life.