My wife and I have had a recurring conversation ever since I started my internship more than 14 years ago. She will say that she often wishes that she could do something as meaningful as practicing medicine and healing the sick. I counter by saying that while it is satisfying knowing that I have made a difference in a child's life, the truth is that very often I feel my role is merely that of an interchangeable gear in the giant machine that is the US health care system, and that were I to miss work on any given day, my patients would receive excellent care from my colleagues, thus making the significance of what I do smaller than is immediately apparent to the casual observer. While there certainly are cases that I can look back on and know with certainty that my personally being in the right place at the right time with the right patient and family did make an enormous difference, this happens much less frequently than my wife, or most nonphysicians, realize.
Rosen D. Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village. JAMA. 2009;302(16):1816. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1565