THE POWER OF EMPATHY

A letter from Rishi Reddy, ’00 MD (HPME)

Hello, Feinberg alumni!

Eight months into this global pandemic, I’m sure that many of us continue to monitor our regional and hospital COVID-19 rates, just as most of us likely wear PPE every day and continue to be anxious about our own exposure and risk of illness. The past few months have been incredibly challenging, from the relentlessness of the virus to police brutality and civil protests.

It feels as if our society is divided in what we believe and how to move forward. I see this in my work daily, from my patients, to my colleagues, and even my neighbors, friends, and family. My biggest concern with the rhetoric has been the lack of empathy shown to others. People are suffering in many forms right now. Some acutely due to COVID-19, but others due to long-standing biases, economic distress, and other stressors in all levels of society. We all know people who are suffering. We must engage them, listen to them, and try to help them.

The last few years have been personally enlightening to me, as I have learned to interact with my patients, my students, and my colleagues with more empathy, and to appreciate their point of view.

Alumni president Rishi Reddy, MD

I have learned that some of my patients have missed appointments, not due to indifference to their health, but rather to the inability to schedule a ride because they live two hours away. I have learned that many of my students are facing challenging personal situations, helping to care for others, or dealing with their own health issues, which can impact their ability to study. I have learned that many of my colleagues have family members with immune-compromised health conditions, opting to live in hotels for weeks and sometimes months during the early phases of the first COVID-19 surge.

More than ever, I appreciate my emergency medicine and intensivist colleagues who have risked and continue to risk their lives every day, with no clear end in sight.

I hope that you all continue to stay safe, and if you are on the frontlines of COVID-19 care, you have my enduring gratitude and respect. I hope that we all can take a step back occasionally to think about what both our patients and our colleagues are enduring, and how we might be able to make more efforts to help each other. I am also proud to know that Feinberg and Northwestern, too, are making efforts to increase diversity and empathy in our schools and in our communities.

I wish I could end this note, as I have in years past, by encouraging you to mark your calendars for our upcoming Alumni Weekend. Alas, as you may have already heard, the 2021 Alumni Weekend will be formally cancelled due to COVID-19, with the goal of hosting classes from 2020, 2021, and 2022 in the spring of 2022. But until then, there are still plenty of ways for us to stay in touch with one another and continue to connect with current Feinberg students (for ideas, go to feinberg.northwestern.edu/alumni).

Thank you for staying engaged, and GO CATS!