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Washington and Physicians 2017: Who’s Bleeding Whom to Death?

February 20, 2017

[This post is an update of the popular 2015 Presidents Day post. It’s a great read with a vital point.]

Today is Presidents Day 2017. The three-day weekend holiday designed to honor Washington and Lincoln, the federal holiday’s name remains, legally, Washington’s Birthday.

Both Washington and Lincoln were exceptional. Thrust into lives that they wanted but didn’t want, from pasts of trial and error, and failure upon failure. Self-promoters whose careers didn’t follow a smooth arithmetic progression.
Instead of waiting to be chosen, they chose themselves. They knew their value and how to compete based on it.

You’re told to wait. That there’s some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that someone else has painted. That employment by a hospital that can terminate you on whatever number of day’s notice (none?) is safer than an alternative in which you take entrepreneurial risk.

Washington, with little more than the 1700’s version of an elementary school education, became a surveyor. His brother, who commanded a local Virginia militia died, and Washington, with no military experience, talked his way into taking over the command. In one of his first skirmishes (in the French and Indian War) he was responsible for killing an ambassador, a serious protocol breach. He was then defeated in battle and signed a surrender agreement written in French, a language he pretended to, but didn’t, understand: it contained an admission of the protocol breach. He then resigned his command when he was passed over for promotion.

He later reentered the Virginia militia and served bravely but resigned once again when he was refused a regular commission in the British army. He married a rich widow and became a planter. In 1774 he was elected to the First Continental Congress. Then, in 1775, against his wishes, he was appointed by the Second Colonial Congress as the commander of all continental forces. He guided the colonists to victory and then resigned again. He was elected the first president but did not wish to serve a second term. He was drafted into a second term but retired rather than serve a third.

There was good money in being a surveyor in the mid-1700’s. Land use was expanding and surveyors were not only in high demand, they had the ability to purchase land that was well situated for an increase in value. Why didn’t Washington keep that job? It would have been very “safe.” But Washington knew his value.

As we all know, in the end, physicians bled him to death. But that was in December 1799 and there’s been monumental progress made in medicine over the ensuing 200-plus years.

How things have changed. Today, Washington has given hospitals the keys to healthcare, and the hospital administrators who tell you that hospital employment is safe are bleeding physicians to death.

Of course, that’s only if you let them. Will you?

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