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Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
— Vince Lombardi, NFL Football Coach (1913-1970)
Editor-In-Chief, Chester "Trip" Buckenmaier III, MD, COL, MC, USA
If you have followed this column, you know I’m a sailor. In fact, my family has long been associated with sailing. My wife and I both grew up around sailing boats, and our children have rarely known a year to pass without various sailing adventures at home on the Chesapeake Bay and in the Caribbean. Though I am quite proud of my career as a federal medicine physician in the Army, I fancy myself plying the world’s oceans as an 18th century sailing captain of a frigate.
So many times I have stared off into the horizon in a direction away from home, thinking “The breeze is right, the seas following, the weather fair and with a slight turn of the wheel we could be off to destinations unknown.” I often muse, with a sly smile on my face, it might take months before the Army knew I was gone, stopped my salary and actually figured out where I might be. These thoughts are my quiet, private, whimsical fantasy. I would imagine everyone in federal medicine has similar visions of a personal escape from the challenges and stressors that come with being a part of the team that drives one of the largest healthcare systems in the world.
Perhaps what is more fascinating and encouraging is that, despite the many stresses of our system, so few of us in the federal medicine family ever set aside our devotion to the team. Individual commitment to the team effort and a willingness to set aside personal needs and desires in favor of the larger organization is what constantly inspires and amazes me about federal medicine providers in the United States.
My family recently took a two-week sailing adventure this spring, as we have annually for many years. My wife, three teenage daughters and I (the captain) enjoy our brief escape from daily responsibility, work, schoolwork, chores, electronic media and the rest of the “stuff” that makes up a modern American family life. This year, we sailed down the Chesapeake from Annapolis, MD, through the Dismal Swamp Canal to Elizabeth City, NC, coinciding with the Elizabeth City Potato Festival (Lucky us!), and back again — about 475 miles round-trip. Our days tended to be full of adventure, but, within the nautical confines of our sailboat, these pleasures do come with some cost.
Unlike our static home, which requires little attention, is large enough for the individual to find peace away from other family members and always does just fine in a large storm, our life together on our 33x14-foot sailboat (Gemini 105Mc – Family Knot) upon the water is quite opposite. Our sailboat requires constant attention, maintenance, navigation and adjustment of sails to safely maneuver our temporary home from place to place. Unlike our land home, where individuals can do just fine alone, the sailboat requires a crew to be successful, and failure of any member of the crew quickly and directly impacts us all.