A desire to learn compassion and empathy from another culture led emergency medicine doctors Steve Caldwell, MD, and Benjamin Sill, MD, to each spend time providing healthcare in New Zealand. The country has great need for physicians, and they saw this as an opportunity to help. And each doctor and their families came home with an amazing adventure—and life lesson.
Benjamin Sill, MD: So, Steve, you took your family down to New Zealand and lived there for a year—and created a pathway for me to follow later on. How did you choose New Zealand, and what was the impetus to get out?
Steve Caldwell, MD: New Zealand had always been high on our bucket list of places that we wanted to go to, see, and experience. And I read somewhere that New Zealand in particular has a need for physicians, that they just don't produce enough. So physicians from outside of New Zealand will go and work there. And I thought that sounded perfect. I really craved giving my kids an international experience and to learn and develop new skills and empathy and compassion by getting out and meeting more people and seeing how different people live. And it turned out to be an amazing adventure.
Tell me your motivation for going to New Zealand.
Dr. Sill: It just seemed like, for my kids, it was time that they got an international experience, like you talked about. And it's the ability to relate to other people and realize that we are all the same. Let's help each other out. Let's be friends. And for the kids to be able to go down there and experience that and to learn from that was our number one motive. We have never felt more together in our entire life.
I love my experience with medicine. Tell me what you learned down there about medicine and how it was different, or what your impression was.
Dr. Caldwell: The biggest thing that stood out to me was how they get by and provide good evidence-based, high-outcome medicine with fewer resources. I'm very grateful for my job here. I think it's a fantastic place to work. But practicing in the U.S., you do feel like a small cog in a big industrial machine. And sometimes you kind of lose sight that what you do matters. And I felt like going to New Zealand and seeing that it's a system that doesn't have that big industrial, complex feel to it—that there's not all these other competing resources and drug companies and people making money off the medical system and adding layers of complexity. It just seemed a little bit more personal, a little bit more intimate. It felt like you could make a difference on a daily basis with the people that you would come in contact with.
Dr. Sill: That was the revelation to me. They don't have a wealth of technology. What they do have, though, is they have people who care and people who are involved. I felt like I was needed more than my ability to order a cat scan—my ability to talk, and to touch, and to empathize, and to be with a person. I love that, and I hope I can bring that back to Utah. I realized, “You know what, medicine really is just being there and talking and figuring things out one-on-one with people.” And they appreciate that. They're not after the technology. They really are after that personal experience that you can have—just sitting in a cubicle talking to each other about their medical problem and how to solve it.