For the past few months, I have been pounding the pavement in Manhattan. I want to find meaningful work in healthcare reform--something this diverse, urban center that arguably has the talent, the money and the problems that need solving--should be anxious to have help accomplishing.
My career has been a mix of healthcare and communications for the past 35+ years. I suppose some might say that I have taken the path less wise instead of the path less taken. But I made a decision long ago that I would only get degrees that I thought would support the body of knowledge that I needed to be effective.
So, no PhD in nursing or in Bioethics although I have masters degrees in both fields. And I crisscrossed the professions--teaching nursing at three universities; then director in an NFP national healthcare organization; then managing projects for medical advertising clients like Wyeth; then founding my own healthcare communications company. Finally, I taught bioethics to med students, nursing students, care managers of geriatric patients while at the same time developing an independent geriatric care management practice in suburban Philadelphia.
My final piece of the crazy quilt was to apply and receive acceptance by Maryknoll International to work with Buddhist monks in Bangkok for three months in the winter of 2009.
Today I met with another amazing professional at the NY Academy of Medicine, and organization that has been around for 150 years. The organization has many interesting projects, but recently was responsible for researching and then preparing a seminal report in 2008 outlining evidence regarding the quality of life for elders in New York's five boroughs. Ideas like NORCs ( naturally occurring retirement communities ), providing education and support to caregivers, models for transition from hospital to home, are all part of the report. I was in the right place to talk to someone who knows what New York needs. But money is tight. The mayor is cutting like crazy according to the New York Times in order to balance the budget. And, as a friend of mine who is on a hospital board of directors commented to me recently: " Every time we get a proposal for funding, we hesitate not because it isn't a worthy idea to be tested out with patients, but because we don't know how healthcare reform is going to effect our bottom line."
Nevertheless, I have promising prospects of consults, of being a part of a platform--which in this case, with the massive needs that I have seen in the last few years of my small GCM practice- seems to me the only way to penetrate the fragmentation that currently exists. And we are running out of time. Right now 1.3 million New Yorkers are 65 or older. By 2030, that number will nearly double to something above 25%. That is not just a New York phenomenon either.
As I walked back to my apartment through Central Park after the meeting, I thought about how glad I am that I am here, in New York, now in a time of such exciting change.m
I took some pictures of the conservatory in full spring blook at the north end of the park, and one of the stunning stone bridges in the North Woods section of the park. It made me less impatient with finding my niche. One of these days I will actually understand deep in my bones that I am not really in charge of outcomes, just the process that I choose to follow to meet my goals and dreams.
In the meantime, I will keep taking pictures of beauty. Of things that are bigger than me, and totally outside my control. Mother Nature, for instance.