From the front lines: The meaning of ‘calling’


This is a series of perspective pieces from physicians who are among the hundreds of thousands providing care during the coronavirus pandemic.

By David Ward, MD

David Ward, MD

Calling. I typed various words for my medical school acceptance letter. I altruistically meant them. After reflecting on the last few days, I now know I didn’t fully understand the meaning at that time. I still have so much to learn.

I’ve been contemplating my mortality and the direct relationship with this “calling.” I know that the coronavirus is considerably more dangerous for those with chronic disease and as one ages. I also know emergency department, hospital, and first responder teams are on the absolute front lines. I hear that health care workers are 3 to 5 times more likely to contract the disease and 20% of U.S. intensive care unit admissions are people ages 20 to 50.

Should I stay home? Absolutely not. I ride at dawn. Calling.

I contacted a wise physician friend and heard the following: “How could a health care clinician look a grocery store clerk, gas station employee, or a pharmacist in the eye if the professional wasn’t willing to help themselves?”

This is the moment. A crisis that hasn’t happened for generations. Our Super Bowl. Our calling.

Called to heal

We put on our personal protective equipment. We wash our hands. We go virtual as much as possible. However, we will always be here in person to help our patients when they need us. It’s our calling. We work to heal. Rich, poor, sick, guilty, innocent, worried, send them to us.

What would I do if I was 65 years of age? I can’t be sure. I haven’t leveled up there. But at this moment, in my mind, I’m resolute that this is my calling. Put me in and let me help as long as I can.

There are so many professions that take incredible risks far beyond what I experience. Thank you to each of them. Iron workers, soldiers, first responders, janitors, so much more. We don’t thank you enough.

We work to heal. Rich, poor, sick, guilty, innocent, worried, send them to us.

There are many who are sacrificing way more than me. I’m so fortunate I have a job. An amazing job. My calling.

The risks to me are “low.” Many people in our country have considerably higher obstacles. I’ll stay at work to do what I can to help.

I’ll stay at work so, please, if you can, stay at home.

Stay at home but get connected with each other. Look for the good. Build one another up. Help each other. How can you contribute to the cause against this global pandemic? How do we come out of this a better people?

As a world we fight one common enemy. As a physician I’m all in. CALLING!

David Ward, MD, is a family medicine physician with the Washington Permanente Medical Group, practicing at Kaiser Permanente Kendall Yards Medical Offices. He also serves as acting director of operations in Spokane for WPMG, the physicians group caring for Kaiser Permanente members in Washington state. Follow him on Twitter @TheDavidCWard. This is reprinted with permission from the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington.