Associate Clinical Professor, Palliative Care, University of California Los Angeles
Every year, thousands of fledgling physicians fresh out of medical school take part in the Hippocratic Oath. So much of the Oath has filtered into our public consciousness: doctors are obliged to “first do no harm”, to hold sacred the confidence and trust that patients place in them, and to show compassion for all whom they may serve.
Jim Slotnick never had the chance to say these words. His path to becoming a doctor was cut short and his experience as a patient granted him a deeper understanding of medicine. Reading through the pages of his autobiography, one can’t help but see a young man filled with the desire to serve the underserved and whose compassion only deepened as he became a patient himself.
As a Jim Slotnick fellow at UCLA, the opportunity to walk in Jim’s footsteps at the LA Free Clinic brought out that same desire, that same sense of service. Reading his memoirs, feeling his presence still alive in his words and in the clinic, has taught me more about compassion than anything else in my medical training.
One part of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors tend to gloss over is perhaps one of its most important. “To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art” the oath advises us. Jim has been a tremendous part of my medical education. With my life, with my career — I hope to honor him.