Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

The patient’s voice: a doctor’s song


A clinician who heals truly listens without judgment and sees things from the patient's perspective.

“What does it mean to be a personal physician?” This was the question posed by our primary care faculty during the first week of intern year at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. We were encouraged to explore the question creatively, so I took the opportunity to flex some musical musclesmuscles developed during my previous career as a musician, but that had weakened during four years of medical school. Any good song tells a story, so as I sat down to write a song, I asked myself, “Whose story is more interesting, a doctor’s, or a patient’s?” 


Like many of us, I came to my medical career with a sense of what patients may experience when very sick. Though I’d never suffered illness, in the three years before med school I supported my mother and grandmother as they lived with, and ultimately died of, their diseases. And though this proxy awareness of the patient’s perspective was burnt into my soul, the scar faded during med school.  


Despite having watched my mother and grandmother suffer, when I looked down at my white coat and saw the newly emblazoned letters MD next to my name, I felt that doctor’s truth had become more immediate to me than the patient’s. As I started internship, I wanted to re-find this awareness of how a patient feels, hold it dear, and guard it closely.


Perhaps that’s why the patient’s story was more interesting to me as I sat to write my song. I thought back to patients I’d cared for during my basic medicine rotation, noticing that the ones that stuck with me most were those who did not share our understanding of their disease processes. These patients taught me that no matter how sophisticated our medical expertise, they were always the experts on themselves. I channeled one such person—an older individual with end-stage heart failure—as I wrote these lines:


Hear me without judgement
My heart can’t take the load it bears
Don’t tell me what to do
I’ve heard all it before, lord knows I’m aware. 

Ain’t looking for someone to cure me
I know there’s nothing that can save me now
I just ask you to take a little time
And heal me. 

Been down this road before
Pain in my soul.
I’ve been pushed and shoved,
Never approached with love.
And so many times, been cast aside
Longing to be understood, not patronized. 

So hear me without judgment
You know we don’t always see eye to eye
You think you know what’s best for me
Cuz you’ve got all the schooling money can buy 

But when you can imagine
What it’s like to walk a mile in mine
That’s the day that surely
You will heal me. 

And when I fail to do what I’m supposed to do
Just recognize thats on me, not you
All that I need is you on my side
Just to understand just how hard I’ve tried 

So hear me without judgment
Put your heart into helping mine
Please take just a little more time
To heal me 


A performance of the song “Heal Me,” by Sujay Pathak, performed at the 2024 Academic Primary Care Annual Symposium at Johns Hopkins, on May 12, 2024.










This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.