One such relationship is with a woman named Jeanette. Our relationship began when I became Jeanette's reader through the Pittsburgh Vision Center, where I work as a volunteer. Before meeting Jeanette, I had never interacted with a blind person. At our first meeting, she was excited to tell me about the new computer she had just purchased and a movie that she had recently seen, making no reference to her blindness. I soon forgot that she was blind myself. "Did you see that blue jay that just landed on the tree outside?" I blurted. There was a moment of awkwardness, as I tried desperately to come up with a way to explain my thoughtlessness. Jeanette saved me by requesting that I describe the scene to her. As I did so, a smile appeared on her face, and she responded, "I see it now." Later, it occurred to me that just as Jeanette had benefited from my way of perceiving the world, I could benefit form her way of "seeing" as well. For example, I have jogged in the park for years, but until I relied on my other senses, I never realized how many animals were moving about or how many wonderful and horrible smelling plants there were! By looking at things from the other person's perspective, Jeanette and I cannot enjoy a more complete picture of the world around us.
My desire to interact with people and understand their experiences and ideas actually stemmed from my early childhood exposures to people in a hospital setting. As I was growing up, my parents, both dedicated physicians, often took me to the hospital with them. Since I spent most of my time tagging along with my parent or the nurses, I had the opportunity to interact with many patients. All the different kinds of people fascinated me and I was curious to know who the patients were, what was wrong with them, and how they were being treated and cured. I always had a million questions to ask, and this desire to learn more about people and medicine has only increased over the years.
As a young adult, I was once again back at the hospital, shadowing medical professionals and asking questions. Through these visits, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of a career in medicine. I learned that a physician participates in many different relationships: with patients, with other physicians, with nurses, social workers, and other caregivers, as well as with hospital administrators and insurance carriers. Often, these relationships can be difficult to balance and sometimes it is even necessary to weigh one relationship against another. I came to this painful realization when I observed the treatment of a sick baby girl. The child desperately needed a heart transplant, and I was hopeful when the hospital found a match for her. Just a few days before her surgery, however, she contracted