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Attitude, not Technology, Makes a Better Doctor

G. Scott Morris, MD, MDiv: “My work on the front lines of the poorest city in America has taught me some truths I believe can help us improve our health outcomes.”

G. Scott Morris, MD, MDiv: “My work on the front lines of the poorest city in America has taught me some truths I believe can help us improve our health outcomes.”

Medical science is using technology to drive improved outcomes, but taking a step back from those advances could make you a better doctor—with the luck of the Irish.

The luck of the Irish isn’t about good fortune, but about having a positive attitude, something that makes G. Scott Morris, MD, MDiv, successful in taking a different approach toward his practice. Sunday, he shared his thoughts on healthcare when he delivered the John Conley, MD Lecture on Medical Ethics.

Dr. Morris is the founder of Church Health Center, in Memphis, TN, which accepts no government funding. “My work on the front lines of the poorest city in America has taught me some truths I believe can help us improve our health outcomes,” he said.

The first of those truths is “Seeing the way others see the world might help us.” The second truth is that other cultures see health in a way that does not focus on technology and science.

Technology has not made Americans more healthy because patient outcomes in the United States are no better than those in the developing world.

“I blame Descartes and Plato. They said to separate us into a body and a spirit,” Dr. Morris said. A better approach, he said, is to practice gentleness, kindness, compassion, humility, patience, and love.

To show how this approach is universal, Dr. Morris recalled treating a teenage girl wearing a black burka and layers of clothing. When he realized he had to listen to her heart, he wanted to respect her culture, but also had to work through the layers of clothing.

“…but underneath it all, she was just a teenager, and she was wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Kiss me I’m Irish,’” Dr. Morris said.

He concluded by challenging physicians to be kind, treat everyone as if they were first, and don’t be afraid to be uncertain, because that can lead to change.

“I challenge you to think about how you treat people. And don’t forget the girl in the burka, because deep down inside, all of us are Irish,” Dr. Morris said, unbuttoning his shirt to expose his “Kiss me I’m Irish” T-shirt.

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