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A Duty to Heal

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A Duty to Heal

A Duty to Heal

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in the power of love.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe...

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in the dignity...

Unidentified Man #2: I believe that everyone...

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in people.

Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.


On Mondays, we bring you our series This I Believe. And today, our essay is one of almost 10,000 that we have received from you in response to our invitation to contribute. It comes from a public radio listener, Dr. Pius Kamel(ph), who's a surgeon working in Denver, Colorado. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

Dr. Pius Kamel was born in Kenya. He doesn't know the date, but he picked September 1st, 1941, because he said it sounded like a good day. He attended school in Mombasa until he had to stop when he was 14 to work for money as a railway clerk. His was a path of obstacles, but eventually he finished his studies and became a physician, all the while, he says, sustained by a dream of America. Here is Dr. Pius Kamel with his essay for This I Believe.


Growing up in the grinding poverty of colonial Africa, America was my shining hope. Martin Luther King's non-violent political struggle made freedom and equality sound like achievable goals. America's ideals filled my head. Someday, I promised myself, I would walk on America's streets. But as soon as I set foot in America's hospitals, reality and racism quickly intruded on the ideals. My color and accent set me apart, but in a hospital, I'm neither black nor white; I am a doctor. I believe every patient that I touch deserves the same care and concern from me.

In 1999, I was on call when a 19-year-old patient was brought into the hospital. He was coughing up blood after a car accident. He was a white supremacist, an American Nazi with a swastika tattooed on his chest. The nurses told me he would not let me touch him. When I came close to him, he spat on me. In that moment, I wanted no part of him, either, but no other physician would take him on. I realized I had to minister to him as best as I could.

I talked to him, but he refused to look at me or acknowledge me. He'd only speak through the white nurses. Only they could check his body for injury; only they could touch his tattooed chest. As it turned out, he was not badly hurt. We parted strangers.

I still wonder: Was there more I could have done to make our encounter different or better? Could I have approached him differently? Could I have tried harder to win his trust? I can only guess his thoughts about me are the beliefs he lived by. His racism, I think, had little to do with me personally, and I wanted to think it had little to do with America, with the faith of Martin Luther King and other great men whose words I heard back in Africa and who made me believe in this nation's ideals of equality and freedom.

My hands, my black hands, have saved many lives. I believe in my duty in heal. I believe all patients, all human beings, are equal and that I must try to care for everyone, even those who would rather die than consider me their equal.

ALLISON: Dr. Pius Kamel with his essay for This I Believe. At the moment, Dr. Kamel is trying to organize a group of physicians and nurses to go to Sudan with him in the coming year as volunteers.

We are inviting everyone to write for our series. To find out how to submit your statement of personal belief, please visit our Web site,, or call (202) 408-0300. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

INSKEEP: This I Believe continues next Monday on "All Things Considered" with an essay from former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.



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