What does it mean to retire? One definition notes that to retire means “to withdraw from office, business or active life, usually because of age.” Well, I am about to enter into the arena known as retirement. And withdrawal is the furthest thing from my mind!
I do have to be honest. I do look forward to not working 40-60 hours a week since I have finished medical school over 44 years ago. (I actually thought 60 hours a week was a piece of cake after my residency program when I usually worked around 100 hours a week.) I do look forward to playing some more golf. I will enjoy spending more time with my wife and family and grandchildren. But withdrawal is not in the cards.
I once heard a wise man (Mark Del Monte, the CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics) make a simple yet profound statement – Pediatrics is advocacy. What he was saying is that those of us who are pediatricians or engaged in the work of pediatrics are committed to advocate for children and families now and beyond – a commitment that is not time-limited. The commitment for pediatric advocacy does not end at retirement. I am perfectly fine with that.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the course of my career as a pediatrician and medical geneticist is that children and their families need tireless advocates. They need people (child health professionals and others) that care about more than themselves and are willing to do the hard work that needs to be done on behalf of children and families. So how can I withdraw from this role even when I don’t have to go to the office every day? I cannot.
I will be engaged as the President of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for the next two years. That role will have me actively working on activities, programs, education, and interactions with like-minded individuals. That role will have me on the never-ending journey known as life-long learning. I can always be learning about the issues that affect children and families. I can always be learning about what influences the health of children and families. I can always be learning about actions that can make a difference going forward. In short, my work will be ongoing, always learning and always humbled as I do the best that I can to make a difference. I can retire from work, but I cannot withdraw from service.
I plan to continue my writings and hope to make a difference via that venue. I think words and their messaging can have a profound influence. I’d like to think that my 44 years in medicine beyond medical school provides a basis for making observations that are important and provides a basis for converting those observations into actions that have an influence in the lives of our most fragile citizens, our children.
We should remember that there is significant scientific evidence to show that early childhood experiences not only influence children as they grow and transition into adulthood, but this same evidence shows that these early childhood experiences affect the health of adults in terms of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension to name a few health problems in our society. So, all of the efforts on behalf of children can have a profound benefit for us all.
All of the above is not written to pat myself on the shoulder. I am not bragging. I am trying to emphasize that the work of helping our children and families is ongoing. It demands our continued efforts. For those of us that retire from the workforce, we should never withdraw from our commitment to children. I pledge to continue the work!