Why Pain?

Rusk, Howard A.


  • Howard Rusk, Professor and Department Chairman at the New York University College of Medicine, describes how the challenges of healing sick individuals drew him to practice medicine, and states his belief that suffering produces character. Audio also contains advertisement for "This I Believe" book.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Dr. Howard A. Rusk, a specialist in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, is one of this country's greatest physicians. He is a professor and department chairman at the New York University College of Medicine, and serves as consultant to the Veterans Administration and the United Nations. This is Dr. Rusk's creed.
I can't remember when I didn't want to be a doctor. Even as an adolescent, when I scrubbed floors and ran errands at the local hospital in order to smell ether and go on rounds with the country doctor,
surgery did not spell the glamour in medicine to me. It was people-sick people-their suffering, their problems, and their victories that challenged.
It has been a rare privilege to be a doctor in medicine's golden era. Far more scientific advances have been made in the last three decades than in all time heretofore. Man's life span has increased from 18 two thousand years ago to 68 in America today.
But I have found it impossible to ignore the fact that these great medical advances have posed new problems. Crippled children, who in the past would have died early in life, now survive. They want to grow and work and love and be loved.
I have heard old people to whom we have added these years ask, "For what-the shelf to wait for death, or an opportunity to live and work in dignity as long as we are able?"
Millions of veterans throughout the world, who have scarred their minds and given parts of their bodies to war, have more than earned their right to live and love and work and to know that their sacrifice has at least been one small stone that is being used to build a better world.
Sick people throughout the world ask their God, "Why must I suffer?" Possibly the answer comes in the work of the potter. Great ceramics are not made by putting clay in the sun; they come only from the white heat of the kiln. In the firing process, some pieces are broken, but those that survive the heat
are transformed from clay into objects of art, and so it is, it seems to me, with sick, suffering, and crippled people. Those who, through medical skill, opportunity, work and courage, survive their illness or overcome their handicap and take their places back in the world, have a depth of spirit that you and I can hardly measure. They haven't wasted their pain.
Because of this experience, they have a desire to share that is almost a compulsion. It matters not whether they be a physician from India, a Zionist from Israel, a Greek veteran or a Pole disabled in a mining accident-all want to share the understanding they have gained through suffering or by helping those who have suffered.
I believe that this basic and inherent desire of man to do something for his less fortunate fellow transcends religious dogmas, political beliefs, and geographical barriers. If we could only use this universal language, we would have a tool to unravel the babel of tongues and an instrument which would penetrate any iron curtain or closed boundary.
It does not seem strange to me that the sick should turn to those who have suffered for their greatest comfort. And so, in a sick world, it is not strange that we turn to those who have been ravaged by suffering and disease for a common language. If we could start to work here together in a program where all of us have the same goals, it is more than possible that, with God's help, we would find the
solution for living together in peace. This I believe!
Those were the personal beliefs of Dr. Howard Rusk. They were chosen from the beliefs broadcast in the past two years for inclusion in the new This I Believe book, now at your bookstore.