Eye contact

In our culture, unlike some others, eye contact in conversation is viewed as a sign of sincerity and engagement.

Every morning, while shaving, I look into the mirror and automatically go through the motions. Like many men, we literally could shave in the dark. That’s until the razor develops a mind of its own and shaves a little closer than intended. Ouch!

That’s the reality check.

There are other reality checks that come to me and don’t involve exsanguination. (Please forgive the metaphor; I’m a recovering trauma surgeon.)

Much more usefully, at closer examination, these reality checks are seminal and critical to our existence in important ways.

Yesterday, I was privileged to meet with one of our legislative leaders and had the opportunity to make full eye contact as a group of us explained exactly who we are and what our mission represents to the citizens of eastern North Carolina. It was clear that he left Greenville with a full appreciation of our realities. In my experience, once we have had the opportunity to speak with anyone about the work of our school here at ECU, it is well-nigh impossible to be anything but inspired.

In eye contact with the legislator, I also learned that he is as committed to his work and the way that it could affect North Carolina as any of us.

Reality checks and inspiration can come from within our school, too. This phenomenon occurred yesterday, also. One of our young faculty members shaped my reality by sharing some of her thoughts. We had a small congregation of our VIAs the night before. VIA stands for Vision, Innovation and Achievement. I’d describe the VIAs as a group of up-and-coming faculty and staff members dedicated to these attributes.

This particular VIA identified two things that will differentiate our school from others and further enhance our successes. They have a close link with the concept of charity.

She said she could think of “countless ways to directly or indirectly” allow BSOM doctors, nurses, faculty members, students and support staff to care more deeply for each other.

“What can be done beyond the obvious things like salary to increase satisfaction?” she asked. She drilled down to an actionable item: “How can I make the appointment, referral, scheduling process (for patients) less painful?”

There was much more content, in what was a very detailed and carefully written email.

So, as I looked into the mirror this morning, I was more intent at really seeing reality.

A colleague recently said he was teaching a group and told a story about someone who sought help because the person felt a loss of compassion. In the moment, he blurted, “That means that not only had they lost the ability to feel someone’s pain, they also lost the benefit of feeling their joy.”

He still does not know where that foundational sentiment came from.

It makes me wonder why we sometimes look, but only allow ourselves to see a very small part of our realities.

Our compassionate VIA said yesterday if we are strong internally, we will be more equipped to think creatively about how to respond to the external challenges and identify opportunities. Basically that our greatest gift has always been our ability to care better, to love more; that the caring mission is what will cause us to be able to tackle the very real financial, logistical and technological issues that we face.

As you make eye contact with others, what are the countless ways to directly or indirectly allow BSOM doctors, nurses, faculty, students and support staff to care more deeply for each other?

I’d like to hear.


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