Dear Patients of Ontario,
I would like to introduce myself, but how? Not by my name because, as Shakespeare wrote, what’s in a name? Not by my age or gender or ethnicity, for those things are often subject to discrimination. Not by my marital status or number of children, for what is true today, may not be true tomorrow. So let me introduce myself in the only way that matters at this very moment in time.
I am an Ontario physician and I am suffering.
I have spent the greater part of my life striving to be the best possible version of myself. As a child, I was intelligent, sensitive, idealistic, perfectionistic. I believed that dreams were realized through hard work and perseverance. And after decades of unyielding determination, when my dream of becoming a physician finally became a reality, I understood this was not by chance; it was my calling in life.
It was with this unwavering dedication that I kept strong through the many grueling years of training. It was with this conviction that I set aside my basic human needs for the benefit of others. And when at long last, I graduated into the working world, starry-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to use my knowledge and skills for the good of my fellow humans, it was like taking my first breath.
Because what you don’t understand is that my sustenance comes from your health and happiness. When you are well, I am well. When you suffer, I suffer. When you are disappointed in me, I am even more disappointed in myself. I lay awake at night wondering if you’re alright, wondering if I made the right medical decision for you, wondering if I had done something differently, would I have saved your life?
I carry the lives of thousands of people in my head and in my heart, and that weighs on me constantly. When I am not working, I feel guilty that I wasn’t there to help you in your time of need, but when I don’t rest, I don’t have the strength the carry the responsibility of so many lives. And when you criticize me, when you call me greedy and lazy and self-motivated, you have no idea how much damage you are doing. My strength comes from your health and well-being, so when you say these things, I am deflated. I am no longer the skilled and confident physician you need me to be.
My life’s work is to keep you healthy and happy and strong, but in order to do that, I must also be healthy and happy and strong. After years of being criticized and devalued, unappreciated and disrespected, abased and abused, I’m not sure how much more I can take before I shatter into a thousand pieces. When I tell you this is not about money, it’s the truth. Because no amount of money can compensate for these attacks on my integrity, my dignity, my humanity. And so, with a heart that is battered, bruised and on the verge of breaking, I am preparing to walk away from what I believed was my life’s work, because as your Ontario Physician, I am suffering and it needs to stop.
Your (soon to be former) Ontario Physician