much to learn (forever)

One TV show has had an outsized impact on my life.

That impact continues today, almost two decades since I first watched the show.

While studying law (as much as I could study law, given my profound and ever-present anxiety about my inability to pay for my studies), I frequently worked as a TV extra:

TV shows fed people involved, even remotely, in their making! Some shows not only fed people while they were present for filming, but by sending people home with then-uneaten food.

For someone typically subsisting on ramen, this. was. amazing.

My law school friend JB, whom I loved so deeply I later asked him to officiate my marriage, first alerted me to this life-changing TV show: “Deb, I think you’ll really enjoy Scrubs. It’s our class, but in medicine, not law.”

Bearing JB’s words in mind, I signed up as an extra on Scrubs the very first time I heard it on the extra work lines. Why not?! (These simple words themselves evoke part of the joy of early Scrubs.)

Scrubs was, by far, the single kindest-to-extras show I worked on while in law school.

When I say this, I’m really not talking about slender margins; I’m saying: It was built to be kind to everyone.

One of the folks involved in its making, the single person I remember from my extra-work days—due to his explicit egalitarian kindnesses (thanks, Richard!!!)—would many years later be one sponsor recommending my now-husband’s entry into the Directors Guild of America.

Before I was en route to become a mother, I wanted to be a doctor.

After I realized I’d soon be a mother, I aimed for becoming a physician assistant.

Back in 2008-2009, I could never find spots in the prep courses I’d need to become a physician assistant. I was always 59th on this waitlist, and 108th on that one. I was pretty devastated, but equally committed to ensuring my child would never know the many horrors of poverty I’d known growing up.

I adapted. I moved on. But as I moved on, I was so grateful that someone I loved had, also inspired by Scrubs, begun his own journey toward practicing medicine.

That “someone,” Nick, is now in his third year of residency, and I. am. so proud! Of everything he’s done, and been, over the last many years.

JB, who first clued me in to Scrubs during law school, several years later told me he thought I was built for a career in public health. He thought it was exactly in line with my hopes for the world.

Despite his consistent good advice over the years—so good that I asked him to marry me and my now-husband!—I had a pretty “meh” response to this:

If public health were of interest to me, don’t you think I’d know it by now?!

I continued thinking this even after my now-MD “someone” also recommended this career path to me:

If this were for me, don’t you think I’d know it by now?!

In late March last year, I bought a book that made me ask myself, “Wait, is this what public health is about?!”

(It was.)

“Why didn’t I know about this sooner?!”

(I did, actually. I just didn’t listen.)

Tomorrow, it’ll be four months since I started working at a hospital.

I’m not working there as a medical practitioner. Not nearly. And yet: I can see, easily, how what I do can occasionally improve the ability of practitioners to practice medicine. To improve—and sometimes even help save—lives.

I’m not practicing medicine myself today. That’s OK.

I don’t need to practice medicine today to play a small role in helping improve lives today. This is, it turns out, an idea quite familiar to many public health workers:

It’s not about miracles. It’s about showing up daily,

and how you show up when you do.

I have so much to learn.

I’m grateful to have so much to learn.

I’m grateful to recall working, ever so briefly, on Scrubs;
for how that work came to be; for
how the Scrubs folks shaped
my now-husband’s career,
and also the life-work of
a dearest friend.

Almost twenty years after I first worked as an extra on Scrubs,

I occasionally hear my ten-year-old son giggle as he watches, and I wonder:

How much more can—will?—this “old” TV show keep improving
the ways I live my now-much-different life today?

Who knows?!

The more pertinent question, the one ever in mind and heart, is:
What can I do, from wherever I sit, to improve lives
being lived

The answer changes every day.

I can’t tell you what my answer will be tomorrow.

Today, though? I can tell you: Scrubs continues to shape what questions I ask,
and how I ask them.

Today, I want to say:

Thanks, JB! For everything.

Turns out you’re right.


Turns out

all I ever wanted

was for people to live

free, and healthy.


4 thoughts on “much to learn (forever)

  1. I do not, and never have, watched TV (OK, when I was a kid…), but I might have to watch an episode or two. Obviously I would never see it through your eyes, but… Glad your career in public health is going well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the same reaction to the direction I think I’m going in (now, finally) that you did about public health, i.e., wouldn’t I have known/done it already? I’m glad your message finally came through clearly. I hope my clarity continues to gain strength. Inspired by your post.

    Liked by 1 person

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