September marks back-to-school and all the rituals that go with it. This year, it took an exciting turn as my daughter followed her older stepsister down the path of a health-based PhD program.  

My stepdaughter set the course, as she’s an amazing pharmacist. Having completed her training at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, she now works tirelessly for her clients. It’s a demanding job. Clients can grow frustrated when they are asked to wait 10 more minutes for a prescription — not realizing the she is performing a carefully calibrated juggling act. Not only does she have to ensure that she is dispensing the right drug, dosage, and potency, she’s also managing a barrage of insurance filings and other documents.

My recently-married daughter has just started the process of obtaining her doctorate in physical therapy. Some days are more challenging than others. For example, the day she met her cadaver donor provided an interesting dichotomy. She learned firsthand how to balance her thirst for knowledge with a respect for the spirit that had moved on from this earthly vessel.

I am actually surrounded by health professionals. Two of my nieces are also both pursuing doctorates. Since they grew up in Virginia (just outside of Washington, DC), I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with them. One of my fondest memories is the day my oldest niece was born, and I became an “auntie” for the first time. Two short years later, I clearly remember this precocious toddler announcing that she was going to become a doctor.

This fall, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know her on a deeper level, as she stayed with my husband and me while completing her fourth year medical school rotation at the University of Minnesota. With a ton of school behind her — and years of residency and potential fellowship study still in front of her — she remains an undaunted bundle of enthusiasm. Gravitating toward oncology, will work with sick kids and their parents whose conditions are difficult to pronounce and impossible to grasp.

I’m in awe of her amazing heart, and the humanity that is required to work in this field. Each of these four women has helped me to see how “human” our health professionals are. These are people who invest years (and hundreds of thousands of dollars) into becoming the best they can be. Most of them have the same fears we all have. And, just like us, they have the need for fun and relaxation.  

These women are great examples of the next generation of outstanding, empathetic health care professionals. We can rest assured there’s a great pool of talent out there ready to take care of all of us. All I ask is the next time you have the need to visit one, remember, they are people too. They are someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother. They, too, are managing the stress of their lives. But they’re balancing those pressures with that of their clients who’ve trusted their lives to them.

Having seen it from the inside, all I can say is: Respect.