As a patient who’s a lawyer, I’ve learned that lawyers and doctors have more in common than you might think. Finding a professional who is humble, kind, and trustworthy can make all the difference in your experience with law and medicine.
In 2014, I learned I had an aneurysm in my right iliac artery. As a lifelong runner, the diagnosis terrified me. My mind raced. I searched for a doctor that had the same passion for surgery that I had for tax law and accounting. I luckily found one, Dr. James Black.
I embarked on a life-changing journey with Dr. Black. And so far, I haven’t had any surgery. I’m in the “watch and wait” period, a term well-known by aneurysm patients. I’ve had a lot of time reflect during watch and wait. I arrived for my initial visit totally self-absorbed, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about death, and wondering whether my artery would burst in the middle of the night or at the office. As a transactional tax lawyer, my whole life has been devoted to helping fix other people’s problems. Now, I couldn’t fix my own, and had to depend entirely on Dr. Black to help me. That dependence wasn’t easy at first. Thankfully, as I’ve worked with Dr. Black and his team over the past seven years, I’ve experienced immense personal growth and now see some things in my life from a different perspective. It’s been both energizing and inspiring and has led me to re-embrace certain important life and team principles that have served me well within and without the doctor-patient relationship. Here are a few of those principles:
1. Be humble.
Humility means recognizing we need help and allowing others to help us, whether as a clinician, patient, or tax lawyer. Ask for assistance when you need it, and acknowledge the other’s strengths and expertise.
2. Trust is paramount in any relationship.
Dr. Black believed in me. He told me I could get through this and that he would help me through it. That was all I needed to hear. It was more powerful than any medicine I could ever take. He never gave up on me. Patients must believe in their physicians and clinicians must believe in their co-workers, just as I believe in my accounting colleagues.
3. Be kind. Always.
Every member of my healthcare team has been extraordinarily kind to me. As I the pandemic grew worse, I reflected on how my healthcare team was standing in harm’s way so that I and many others could live a better life. As a tax lawyer, I work to always be kind to my colleagues and clients.
4. Serve others.
The dedication and commitment clinicians show their patients and coworkers inspired me to do more back home. One of my passions is AVANCE, a nonprofit working to destigmatize mental healthcare in the Hispanic community of Dallas. I helped start Latino Street Fest, an annual family music festival benefitting AVANCE. That festival now draws thousands of people to downtown Dallas.
5. Embrace the support and encouragement of others.
In the summer of 2016, a friend encouraged me to do a half-marathon. The farthest race I had done was a 10K and wasn’t really interested in doing a half-marathon. I called Dr. Black’s office, thinking for sure he wouldn’t clear me and that would be an easy out with my friend. Instead, I was shocked when he cleared me. I wondered to myself, “How can an aneurysm patient do a half-marathon?! Dang! How do I get out of this now that I’m clear?!” I couldn’t back out now because I didn’t want to disappoint my doctor. He’d done so much for me and believed that I could do a half-marathon. I had to change my thinking to embrace the opportunity. I trained for several months and finished my first half-marathon in October 2016 in Brooklyn, New York, with a time of 2:03 (a little over nine minute miles). Since then, I’ve finished over 15 half marathons or eight-milers in Texas, New York, and California.