Experiencing Doctors’ Day from another perspective

Jason Schwartz, PhD

Clinical fellow Jason Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D., Oncology, a former St. Jude patient, discusses what it’s like to experience his first Doctors’ Day.

National Doctors' Day dates back to 1933 when Eudora Almond, the wife of Charles Almond, M.D., thought it was a good idea to set a day aside to recognize physicians for their service. A tradition developed through the years. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush signed a proclamation recognizing March 30 as National Doctors’ Day. The proclamation states that “medicine is a special calling, and those who have chosen this vocation in order to serve their fellow man understand the tremendous responsibility it entails.”

The responsibility that physicians hold is huge, and it is one that is taken seriously. I believe this is especially evident here at St. Jude. This and many other reasons led me to strive to return to St. Jude as a physician, and I am fortunate that this dream has come to fruition.

Soon after becoming a St. Jude patient in 1995 as a teenager, I “heard my calling” to become a physician. My experience as a leukemia patient was, in retrospect, a beautiful experience. There were difficult and uncomfortable times, but the whole process was completely life-changing. I received care and compassion from the doctors in Memphis and at my home affiliate location. After two and a half years of weekly chemotherapy treatments and close interaction with them, I knew I wanted to be just like them.

My experience sparked curiosity and questions—some of which had no answers just a short 19 years ago. Today we know more, but of course, there are more discoveries to be made. To know that I will play at least a small part in that discovery is exciting.

As Doctors’ Day approaches, I was asked to pen a column, given that I may have an interesting perspective as a St. Jude physician who once was on the “other side of the IV pole.” Indeed, my previous experiences have been useful in some situations to help bring comfort to newly diagnosed patients. Providing at least a small amount of comfort to a patient or parent who is reeling and in shock of a cancer diagnosis has been a dream come true, but I take sharing my experience seriously and as part of my responsibility to never take the spotlight away from the current patient.

For me, St. Jude has been a warm, comforting place from my initial introduction to today. It is quite nostalgic to walk the same halls that Danny Thomas once did, pouring out his compassion to our patients. At the same time, I get to work with world experts in treating these children—to help fulfill Danny Thomas’ dream that “no child should die in the dawn of life.”

To physicians, especially those here at St. Jude, thank you!

March 30, 2015