My Greatest Teacher

by Dr. Alison Chen ND | Follow on Twitter

No medical school, textbook nor mentors teach me as much as my patients.

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AS I LOOK INTO MY PATIENT’S EYES, she cries tears of hope and loss. This is the first time in 30 years she feels supported and heard.

She suddenly apologizes for her tears, uncomfortable with her vulnerable state. She reverts back to being the superhero that everyone expects of her. She’s the mother, wife, sibling, daughter, colleague, student and friend who is completely dependable but alone.

She is strong so no one has to see her suffering. She rarely asks for help because her life has taught her to expect disappointment and that somehow she doesn’t deserve it. She is silent because she has given up on hope…. That is until now.

She doesn’t fully transform back into her typical Wonder Woman self and allows herself to be held in a safe space with me. Her physical pains don’t lift but somehow her shoulders feel lighter and more open. Her chronic migraines don’t go away but she is able to think clearer. Her weight does not change but she has a new found courage to eat healthier and enjoy exercise because she is worth it and not because she feels ugly, fat, heavy or guilty.

My patient is learning to love herself as she is: perfect, whole and complete.

She hugs me and thanks me for everything we’ve done for her. She doesn’t just mutter the words, but says it with sincerity. A sincerity that grabs hold of my heart and makes it a little difficult to breath.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

This was the moment that made all the struggles over the course of the 4 years at Naturopathic medical school worthwhile.

I had incredibly stumbled upon the most rewarding career I could ever imagine. The universe had blessed me with the privilege of holding a safe place for my patient to accept herself and be supported. I may not be able to cure her Fibromyalgia, but I can help lift the suffering from her illness and life.

I may not always have the exact supplement combination or get the precise TCM picture or prescribe the similimum homeopathic remedy, but I can create healing from years of misguided trauma and abuse. I can bring about hope.

As I felt the tears welling up inside myself, I realized that my patient is my greatest teacher. Not only is she a window of courage and hope, she is also a mirror.

The emotions and situations that I can best empathize with are my triggers. They teach me to value myself, ask for help, detach from expectations, and to love myself as I am in this very moment.

Medical school provided me with the groundwork of how to be a safe and effective doctor.

My supervisors helped integrate and individualize those treatment protocols to be the most efficacious to my patients.

But my patients are the ones who taught me to sit in silence, to be okay with not knowing all the answers, and to utilize my presence and intentions as the greatest healing tool I can have in my large tool belt.

My patients are my superheroes and greatest teachers, not for what they do, but who they are. And for that, I thank you with the same sincerity that grabbed hold of my heart and made it a little difficult to breathe… thank you

About the Author
Dr. Alison Chen ND

Dr. Alison Chen ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and was the recipient of the humanitarian award. Her background in competitive gymnastics, personal training, and volunteer work in Africa gives her a well-rounded view to living well.   Since graduating Alison has traveled the world exploring different ways to think and teach about healing. She believes that education should be consumable and fun, so she created theNDDC and wrote an illustrated rhyming book about poo. Seriously, check out the poo book on Amazon here.