Monday, November 24, 2014

The King's English.

I was thinking about my colleague George yesterday and something popped into my head. This remote memory of a piece of writing that George had sent me a few years ago. When I saw him the day before he sent it, I recall him saying,"I decided I'd channel my inner Kim Manning and write down my reflections." That last part was laced with sarcasm.  Full emphasis on the word reflections. Ha. I could tell from his crooked smile and the twinkle in his eyes when he said it that he was poking fun at me. But I could also tell he was serious, too. "It's just a few thoughts I've been having," he went on. "Like you, I love working at Grady. So I knew you'd appreciate it."

He was right.

Now. The big joke with me and many of my colleagues is that I'm such a tremendous electronic hoarder. I save emails upon emails and constantly appall people by the number of items in my inbox. (Greater than one thousand on any given day--gasp.)  I replayed that exchange with George and, being the electronic hoarder that I am, subsequently began hunting through my giant email hoard piles for that original message--fully believing I would find it.

Mmmm hmmmm.

Did I mention that it was sent roughly four to five years ago? In like 2009 or 2010? Um yeah. Well. Believe it or not, it wasn't out of the question for me to think I'd have it. (Don't judge me, please.) 

Man. Imagine how sad I was to find that, probably in one of my massive vow-to-do-better in-basket sweeps, (usually prompted by someone judging my in-basket number) I must have deleted it.


That said, being the multi-level electronic hoarder that I am, I had one other Hail Mary idea still in my back pocket. Yes people. My electronic hoarding exceeds the confines of Emory Outlook.

Mmmm hmmmm.

And so. My Hail Mary plan was to search for the piece in my random hard drive files, fingers crossed that it had been sent as a separate Word attachment.

And guess what? It was sent as a separate Word document. And guess what? That document was in the hoard pile. (Next to a residency recommendation letter for a medical student who is probably a full professor by now.)


Imagine the gift it was to me to read these words. Ah! Words my colleague had shared with me way back when. Words that now serve as a haunting opus. . .so defining of his commitment to Grady Hospital, to our underserved patients, to our learners and to the purpose-driven life George tried to live. It gave me chills to read them again.

As I did, I could hear his silky accent saying each line. Using, as we used to joke in clinic, "The King's English." All of this--these words, this melodic use of our language--represented his international background built by living everywhere from India to Kenya to Indiana to Atlanta.

"In Africa," he used to say, "when you learn English, you learn it in its purest form, Kim. It is the King's English. Full strength. Like heavy cream, not this skim milk you hear elsewhere, Kim." When he said that, his eyes were probably twinkling with that same serious-sarcasm and he was likely crookedly smiling once again.

Ha. That makes me chuckle because I can see it. And those who knew him, I'm sure, can too.


The original Grady. George would like this photo and would likely know some random fact about it. Ha.

The version I found had minor edits that I'd made out of habit more than anything else. I think George had written this "just because" and don't recall him saying he intended to submit it to a journal for publication. After finding it, I considered sending it off to one, but didn't want to be forced to edit his words too much. I do recall him complimenting this blog several times so have taken license to share his words here.

My honest guess is that George would have been honored to have others read his reflections. I'm proud that he trusted me with them and that he'd taken a moment to "channel his inner Kim Manning."


Perhaps after reading this, you will be as compelled as I was to channel more of your inner George Mathew. To find your sense of purpose and then walk into it boldly. Just like he did.

George in his element, with colleagues and learners caring for patients at Grady.

(And if all that sounds too heavy for you, just try using the King's English. He'd like that.)

Enjoy. And thank you for sharing, George. This and yourself.

Your colleague,



A Sense of Purpose

I saw him at the hospital curb waiting to cross the road on his way to clinic. He waved at me and after exchanging a few pleasantries, went on his way to the clinic. Watching him stride away, I saw in his steps a sense of purpose.

Pushing through the doors of the hospital, I ran into another of my colleagues. She chattered about the weather, the weekend and while walking with her to the clinic, I could sense she was looking forward to spending the day with her colleagues, residents and taking care of indigent patients, that she called  “a wonderful population."

Combined they had spent over 25 years at the county hospital and had no plans to leave. Every day, every year they had a renewed sense of purpose that only got stronger. A sense of purpose that they were going to be there for the care of society’s most vulnerable.

I count it fortunate to have worked in the county hospital environment. For the academic clinical internist, a county hospital is a satisfying mix of patient care, education and research. Bereft of a strong subspecialty presence, internists tend to thrive in that particular microcosm, whose environment tends to nourish the physician’s soul. Where one physician may see frustration and despair, the county hospital internist sees opportunities for improvement and hope.

Certain specialties have their own favored clinical setting .For the cardiologist and the cardiac surgeon there is the Heart Hospital, for the Orthopedic Surgeon an orthopedic hospital but for the academic clinical internist it is the teaching hospital--often a county hospital. A natural fit.

One of my favorite professors had such a strong sense of purpose, that after serving many years in a county hospital, he went to Africa to create one of Africa’s largest HIV networks. Some of his fellow colleagues followed him there, knowing that a common sense of purpose would unite them as they tackled one of mankind’s deadliest scourges.

Which brings me back to the topic -- "a sense of purpose." For the physician it is the sixth sense, a sense that guides and defines us as we try to take care of our fellow human beings. If ones sense of purpose is followed and not ignored, it can lead the physician down a path where the reward is not monetary or power but one of accomplishment and contentment.

Sadly, in today’s world, many physicians tend to lose this sense of purpose due to a variety of reasons. Most of the time it is the environment in which they choose to practice.  An environment that does not nurture one's sense of purpose will only dull it over time.

But when that sense of purpose is incubated in the right environment, the result is uplifting. A renewal of youth occurs on a periodic basis and the physician continues to enjoy medicine as much as he or she did when they started their first year of medical school. And when others with a similar sense of purpose work together in that same environment, spontaneous chemistry develops. It is highly contagious and results in a deeper and richer environment that most people and professions aspire to but few will ever attain. It is in the county hospital that the academic clinical internist can best hope to create that magic.

~ George Mathew, MD

Written by George Mathew, MD  (1971 - 2014)
Emory University School of Medicine
Grady Memorial Hospital
(Shared in 2010 with Dr. K. Manning and posted with very minor grammatical edits)

Happy Monday. Again. And shout out to all the electronic hoarders.  #validation

With Kelly A., one of George's small group students. We promise to take good care of them, George.

What gives YOU a sense of purpose? 
Are you doing it? If not, why?


  1. Thanks soo much for sharing this Dr. M. He lived with purpose and intention in the same way you do

  2. This is wonderful, and very true to the Dr. M I knew. Thanks for posting!

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