Michael Pritchard

Physicians have to learn to not just bring the light, but glow in the dark


 As a healer, it’s important to address, respect, and comfort a patient’s pain. Michael Pritchard considers the opportunity to spread light as a tremendous gift.

The Interview

Forty-eight years ago I enlisted in the military as a core man. One of the first things you learn as a core man, or a medic in the military is that pain shared is pain divided, and compassion shared is compassion multiplied. Most powerful gift I had was learning compassion from taking care of wounded. We grow wise from the pain around us.

One of the gifts is to have young physicians understand how very important it is to comfort and nurture patients. My middle son is a doctor, and he works as an ER doc. And he had post-traumatic stress disorder from a trip he had in Nicaragua. And he had seen a little girl with muscle mass, who lived her entire life in a thatch basket, and she had bedsores, and he had to rotate her with the other physician, and they were taking care of her. And she asked in Spanish if my son, who had bright red, curly hair, was a holy angel that had come to take her from her pain. And he got emotional and he said, “I stood outside and there were starving donkeys, and starving dogs, and pouring rain.”

And he goes, “Dad the only thing I could think of was that there was a girl, who was a friend of mine, who used to get mad because her $400 sunglasses weren’t ready on time.” And I said, “Son, you now know everything I would love and need for you to know about being a healer.”

To feel that pain, address that pain, through comfort, through nurture, through respecting it, and knowing that unaddressed grief turns to anger, the anger to rage, rage turns to violence and self-destructiveness. What we can do is cotton ball, we intervene, we confront, we enlighten. There’s a big world out there, there’s lots of pain and pockets of darkness, and we as physicians have to learn to not just bring the light, but glow in the dark.

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