I was 8 years old when I learnedthat my dad wasn't just anordinary person. My familywas at a Jersey Shore amusementpark one summer night when a parkemployee seriously injured his armin the machinery of a ride.
The man was bleeding profusely,and as a crowd gathered and confusionset in,my physician-dad steppedforward and helped calm the situation.He took charge, evaluated thesituation medically, and worked tocontrol the bleeding until emergencypersonnel arrived. The man's armwas saved. One of my most vividmemories of that night was seeingmy dad's blood-covered hands afterhis first aid efforts. Being a little confused—I noticed that no one elsecame forward to help—I asked mymom why daddid what hedid. She said something along thelines of, "It's your father's job to helppeople." From then on, I saw myfather in a different light.
The bottom line is that myfather didn't have to help that manthat night, but he did.
"Back then I was a young physicianand I didn't think twice abouthelping the person," my dad toldme. "Sadly, I'm not so sure that'sthe way doctors feel today. Societyhas changed, and doctors are targets."
I'm pleased to say one high-profiledoctor doesn't think twice abouthelping total strangers in their hourof need. On New Year's Day, USSenator Bill Frist (R-TN), the firstphysician elected to the Senate in65 years and the body's newly-mintedMajority Leader, was travelingwith his family to their southFlorida vacation home when theysaw an SUV in another lane blow atire and flip over. According topress accounts, the Harvard-trainedtransplant surgeon quickly stoppedto aid the 6 seriously injured occupantsuntil paramedics arrived.
This wasn't the first time thedoctor-turned-senator used hismedical skills to help fallenstrangers. On several occasions hehas provided life-saving care in thenation's Capitol. And he frequentlytravels the globe to perform medicalcare for people in disadvantagedcountries. "As a doctor, my firstinstincts are to help," says the 50-year-old senator, who always keepshis doctor's bag close by.
Chief among the new Senateleader's duties will be to fixAmerica's ailing health care system(ie, Medicare reform). But alreadysome Beltway-opinion geniuses aresaying that Dr. Frist will have atough time adapting to testy Congressionalpolitics. I'm sure he'llbear up fine though. As my dadsays, "If you think playing politics inWashington takes ability, just trytransplanting a heart."