Suffering from “bronzemia”?
How to keep serving others and helping those who need us most
By Zoila Cano
I recently graduated from medical school, which has been an experience that has helped me grow academically and as a person, as well as discovering the kind of person and professional I wish to be.
One moment that really marked me was a writing assignment during my fourth year. The professor asked us to write an essay about a talk for an online video conference on an invented concept called “bronzemia.”
The doctor in the video explained that this was a “disease” characteristic of older doctors who had started to think so highly of themselves that they thought themselves better and smarter than anyone else, forgetting that the career they chose is one of service, of a deep desire to help those who need us. He described how these thoughts of superiority build up in a person to the point that he or she almost considers themselves a bronze statue for everybody else to see and admire.
This video inspired me to be the very opposite. I named my essay, “Will I lose the ability to smile?” because in the video the doctor explained how people in my profession can eventually completely lose their smile. After turning in my essay, I wrote this doctor to thank him for his talk, which made me realize how easily anyone can get this disease — even me! I told him how my own wanting to be praised by teachers for my work and wanting to answer their questions first or striving to get the highest grade on exams were indeed early symptoms of “bronzemia,” and that was not a disease I wanted to get!
Two years later, right before graduation, I was surprised to get an email from this doctor in which he asked my permission to use the email I had sent in a book he is writing. In the draft, he quotes my words and says, “this email made my heart very happy that day.” It made me realize how important it is to thank people and express my gratitude concretely, since we never know when a simple “thank you” can brighten up someone’s day.
I was further surprised when he sent me a draft of the book, and in the introduction he wrote about a congress he went to ten years ago in a place called Mariapolis Lia, a small town of the Focolare in Argentina. He described how the experience of a young man who worked in the ceramics shop there really struck him. The man shared about how the work he was doing — cleaning used ceramics to resell — was so undervalued, but that once he saw that his work was helping a needy person build a house for his family, he knew it was worth it.
The doctor even mentioned that it was a congress of the Economy of Communion (an innovative economic proposal based on a culture of giving, launched by Focolare founder Chiara Lubich in 1991). I realized that this young person, whose experience had impacted him so much to put it in a book he was writing 10 years later, was probably someone who has made the same commitment in the Focolare as I have.
When I read that, I could not believe it! This doctor attended that one activity many years ago, and even so he still remembers that episode. It made me realize how important it is to share the impact God has on our lives with others, because maybe through this, God wants to touch the lives of other people, even if it is just one single person.
So I wrote this doctor back to explain the astonishing connection and have invited him to come give one of his talks in the Dominican Republic, where I know many young people studying medicine who would be very happy to listen.