On a recent trip home from a meeting in Virginia, I stood on the train platform waiting for my ride back to Philadelphia. It was a beautiful fall morning, and I was looking forward to the four-hour ride, offering me plenty of time to get caught up on emails without interruption.
A young conductor approached me asking where I was headed. He was the inquisitive type, and a one-word answer was not going to suffice. He asked how often I visited the area and what I do. I briefly explained I work for a company that builds surgery centers where gastroenterologists can perform procedures like colonoscopies. For the next 15 minutes, he quizzed me about surgery centers, asking me whether they are safe, and if I would have my procedure done at one of these centers.
While he was not old enough to be considered a screening candidate, he was intelligent enough to understand that there are other reasons people should get screened, like family history or symptoms. I was surprised at how interested he was to know more. Even though it was quite early in the morning, I could see his wheels of curiosity turning. He asked how long I worked at my job and concluded, “So you really help save lives.” I was awestruck by his response, and for the first time, it really hit me hard. Someone just learning about what I do quickly surmised the end result in a matter of minutes. It made me pause and feel good about my career of over almost two decades. I always viewed my efforts from a different perspective: how I can help physicians who work so hard for their patients achieve their goals. But this fellow was spot on. I felt very proud.
The conversation quickly shifted, and he wondered why he’d never heard of a surgery center before and how people find one. It was a concept that seemed very foreign to him, but he appreciated knowing there was an alternative to going to a hospital. He wondered about patient safety, if centers were inspected for cleanliness, and why a patient would choose such a place rather than the traditional hospital. The questions kept coming, and I was delighted to educate this young man on choice, cost and quality care.
In this moment, it struck me how important education is for our industry. No matter our role, we can take even small interactions like this one as opportunities to educate people, not just patients. The more we raise awareness, the more lives we save. It is a responsibility for all of us that touch the medical field to benefit others.
As for my conversation with this young man, eventually, our train was announced, and it was time to board. He thanked me and said to have a nice day. Actually it turned out to be a great day.