There’s an old saying, “You should never meet your heroes,” which means the people you most admire but don’t know personally – your favorite singer, actor, politician, author, etc. – will most likely not live up to your expectations should you encounter them in real life. And while I understand the meaning behind it, I must point out that it doesn’t always hold true.
I should preface this by saying that I’m not into the traditional model of the “superhero.” I don’t watch Marvel movies. I know the title of each one by heart, thanks to my eight-year-old son, but I don’t watch them. I get the appeal, but those heroes don’t quite fit my definition of what it means to be a superhero.
Not too long ago, I came across an article about a local oncologist who, upon closing one of his practices, forgave over half a million dollars of his patients’ cancer treatment debt.
The following Christmas, his former patients received a holiday greeting that read:
“I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for the majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”
The doctor’s name is Omar Atiq, M.D., a professor of medicine and otolaryngology-head and neck in the UAMS College of Medicine and president-elect of the American College of Physicians.
This month in AMP, we are celebrating health care professionals. And while I didn’t get to meet Dr. Atiq in person, I did get to listen to the interview one of our writers, John Callahan, had with Atiq and read the story that showed up in my inbox soon after. And I can honestly say it is one of the best stories I have ever read. Partially due to John being a fantastic writer, but mostly because after listening to Dr. Atiq answer the questions John asked him with such sincerity and reading about all of the wonderful things he has done for his patients over the years, I was anything but disappointed. Sometimes, people live up to the image society creates for them, and that’s a beautiful thing.