I walked up to my dad and said, “Baba, there’s something wrong with me”. I was probably around 8 years old at the time. He looked concerned and prompted me to tell him more. I said, “I cry a lot. About everything. And my brother and friends make fun of me.” He then smiled and, through his smile, said words that will stay with me forever. “Don’t worry Mohammad. It’s a sign of a soft and warm heart. Your special mission is to travel through this life and keep your same soft heart.”
Fast forward 10 years to my second year of medical training. I remember entering a patient’s room as a part of our Introduction to Clinical Medicine course. Moon face. Truncal obesity. Buffalo hump. Abdominal striae. Hirtuism. I was like a child with a fulfilled Eid gift wish list! Here I was, celebrating my ability to recognize the quite obvious presentation of Cushing’s syndrome, oblivious to the very real and detrimental complications of Cushing’s syndrome and the emotional toll that these symptoms must be having on this young woman. She entered the room to receive care, and I entered the same room so focused on my ability to produce a differential diagnosis that I failed her and myself; I failed to show her the compassion that fuels my love for medicine. My inability to see past the mere facts of her presentation left me in a poor position to honor my mission. Fueled by the tears of a child, I cried.
Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski