A Moment to Chair-ish

May 8, 2015 marked the end of my tenure as Chair of the Greater Louisville Medical Society Board of Governors. Here is the text of my farewell address…

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I must start by thanking the Greater Louisville Medical Society staff, our board members, my private practice staff, my patients, and mostly my family.

Two years ago I stood on the stage of the Performing Arts Center at Kentucky Country Day School and in my first remarks as President said these words:

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The Greater Louisville Medical Society is our organization. It is our tribe. It is our road to a place where medicine is both science and art. It is where our community enjoys wellness and the sacred bond between our patients and us is secure. Imagine that future. Let’s go there together. Let’s get connected. Let’s unite. Let’s have that journey start today.

Now, after that year as President and this past year as Board Chair, the journey has brought me here, where a short time from now I will bring down the gavel for the last time, signaling the end to what has been the most rewarding period of my professional life. It’s been quite a ride. But it is time to transition.

However, I leave knowing that (a) the GLMS did not crash and burn under my watch; and (b) I am leaving the GLMS in great shape and in great hands.

hourglass

Gifts are often bestowed at a time like this. Last year you gave me an hourglass. I like hourglasses because they remind me of how each moment is precious. How, once spent, we can never relive the precious present. This is what Rudyard Kipling meant when he wrote:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And, which is more, you’ll be a man, my son!

In his final “From the President” article, our outgoing President, Dr. Bruce Scott, documented how well the Greater Louisville Medical Society has filled this past year’s unforgiving minutes.

Since this time last year, our medical society has weathered political mayhem, economic upheaval, and competitive challenges, and we have emerged strong. In addition to our ongoing good works in the community, our advocacy, and our support of physicians:

-we substantially impacted policymaking in Frankfort and in Washington;

-we made the investment necessary to revamp our computer, Internet, and information technology capabilities so we may fulfill our mission as a modern and influential medical society for years to come; and

-we built a bridge to future successes by cultivating the transfer of executive leadership from Lelan Woodmansee’s thirty-five amazing years -steady at the helm- to Bert Guinn’s innovative and energetic vision for the next chapter in GLMS history.

To commemorate my past year in leading our Board of Governors, Lelan asked me if I would like the usual and customary gift of a trophy chair or perhaps something else. Of course I wanted the chair! Just like that hourglass, this chair has meaning. Every time I look at it I am reminded of so many aspects pertaining to the physician life.

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First, it’s an award. And physicians are always striving to achieve that next level, graduate, move up, re-certify, and achieve recognition. So this chair will be a source of pride. It stands for something. And so do physicians.

Second, it’s sharp looking. My dad always said that half of being a ball player is looking like one. This chair has an air – a graceful, confident air. And so do physicians.

Third, it doesn’t have a cushion. It’s not the most comfortable way to go. And neither is a physician’s life.

Fourth, it’s made of wood. It is firm, steady, but can bend a bit. Absorb some stress. But over time this chair will wear and eventually succumb to the stress of its purpose. And so will physicians, eventually.

Fifth, it is a work of art. It is a chair, like other chairs, but it is one-of-a-kind. And so are physicians.

Sixth, it’s functional. Serves a purpose. As do physicians

Seventh, it provides comfort. A place to rest. Heal. And so do physicians.

Eighth, it connects me to my colleagues and mentors who have gone before me and who will come after. All physicians should be connected.

I humbly accept this gift and will cherish it. Thank you.

But I also know this chair is neither innovative nor creative. It is incapable of disruptive thinking. This chair cannot act and cannot feel. When I sit in it, this chair will not become me. It will only be trappings.

We know we must be more than just the trappings of our profession. Appearances matter. Words matter. But actions matter much more.

I am proud of where we have been and where we are going. And I am proud of each of you for being here – for being more than just a spectator or critic.

Theodore Roosevelt said it well:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again -because there is no effort without error and shortcoming- but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Roosevelt described a person in the arena. But a great person cannot achieve as can a great people.

Abraham Lincoln knew this. In his address dedicating the Gettysburg Battlefield National Cemetery, Lincoln proclaimed:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

When we are united in a cause, bound together by values we share -trust, integrity, truth, excellence, selflessness, giving – then we raise all of us.

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As I survey the battlefield in which our profession is currently engaged -with foes ranging from rival healthcare provider disciplines, to profit hungry corporations, to misguided and self-serving political groups- I know that if divided we will be conquered.

And I’m reminded of what Shakespeare’s Henry V said to inspire his soldiers before the climactic St. Crispin’s Day battle:

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.

Over the past year, in this room, I have had the honor of leading, if only for a few hours, a collection of men and women, the likes of which I may never see equaled. We happy few. If in this unforgiving minute I have reached the pinnacle of my career, I will have been truly blessed. And if ever I lay claim to higher success, I know I will have risen there only because of the firm foundation that you and the Greater Louisville Medical Society have provided me.

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The Greater Louisville Medical Society. Our organization. Our tribe. Our road to a place where medicine is both science and art. Where our community enjoys wellness. And where the sacred bond between the physician and the patient is secure. I have imagined that future. I want us to go there together. Let us stay connected. Let us stay united. Let us continue that journey, together.

Thank you.

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James Patrick Murphy, MD, MMM is Medical Director of Murphy Pain Center and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He is board-certified in Pain Medicine, Anesthesiology, and Addiction Medicine.

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