by Dr. Eliza Lo Chin
March 4th marked the 25th Anniversary celebration for RENEW, an organization that has partnered with AMWA in various programs over the past 2 decades. Founded by long-time AMWA member, Dr. Linda Clever, RENEW is the answer to the mantra, “In order to do well, you have to be well.” RENEW has led conversation groups, workshops, and seminars across the nation – and was raising awareness of the importance of practitioner well-being, even before burnout among healthcare professionals became a nationally recognized issue.
My service with RENEW spans nearly two decades, a time which witnessed my leadership in AMWA from branch president to national president to executive director and my growth from young mother to empty nester. Throughout all of this, Dr. Clever was a mentor, sponsor, cheerleader, and friend.
I was honored to be present at the 25th Anniversary celebration, both as a board member and as a representative of AMWA, and to deliver these remarks:
I first met Linda back in 2000. Amazing – has it been almost 23 years?
Back then, I was gathering stories for an anthology – and two of Linda’s pieces became a part of my book – the “Two Casserole Test” and “A Doctor Alone with Her Decision.”
In the first piece, Linda spoke of those in our lives who will bring not just one casserole but two – when the going gets rough – and the importance of adding people to our own two casserole list.
In the second piece, Linda spoke of the loneliness that physicians often feel when shouldering the responsibility of a crucial decision – especially when things don’t go right. The piece ends with these sentences – “Here a surgeon grappled with and acknowledged her burden, and a colleague reached out a kind hand. They walked up the stairs together.”
In many ways, Linda has been that colleague and friend for me. “How are you doing,” she would ask – and really mean it. She would come out to my side of the Bay for lunch, and she was the first one to teach me that it was ok to juggle the many roles in my life – as long as I didn’t drop the glass balls. More than once, I found myself on her two casserole list – even if they weren’t physical casseroles.
Serving on the board of RENEW for nearly two decades, I found myself getting RENEWed literally every time we were together. (How many boards can stake a claim to that?) Oftentimes it was a poem, a thought, a way of thinking.
One of my favorite poems from Linda’s collection was “Ithaca” – a poem about Odysseus and his journey home.
The poem starts out like this –
“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.”
And ends with this –
“Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithaca means.”
So as we celebrate the first 25 years of RENEW and look to the future, let’s remember, it’s not the destination that’s important – it’s the journey and the experiences along the way. Thank you for being a part of our journey with RENEW, and we hope you will stay with us for this next phase. And thank you, Linda, for allowing us to share this journey with you.
AMWA looks forward to many more partnership opportunities with RENEW in the years to come.