I love the show New Amsterdam, which immediately follows my favorite show, This Is Us, on channel 4 (NBC), Tuesday nights. It’s sometimes a little over the top in terms of the amount of drama, even chaos, happening all through the Emergency Room (ER) of this hospital – for patients, doctors and other personnel. But its overriding theme is so inspiring, I can totally forgive any of that. Even cooler, it’s based on a true story.
Here it is in a nutshell …
Medical director Dr. Max Goodwin (played stunningly by Ryan Eggold) comes to the New Amsterdam Hospital (Bellevue Medical Center in the true story) in New York City when it’s suffering from one of the worst care records in the country. Under his care, it becomes a thriving, healthy institution. And, he transforms it by putting patient care first … before the bottom line, before ‘following the rules.’
Max’s concern for his patients’ well-being supersedes everything else, including his own health at times. (He’s running the hospital nearly 24/7 while trying to treat his own throat cancer, deal with his wife’s pregnancy issues, save a precarious marriage – you see what I mean about the ‘drama’!)
Here’s one of the main things I love. Max has a catch phrase for everyone he comes in contact with – as he’s running through the halls of the ER with colleagues, speaking directly to patients, anyone and everyone. Four simple words – How can I help?
Is there – and will there ever be – a better thing you can say to, or hear from, anyone? Especially when they really mean it? And will do everything in their power to help you, in the way you need help?
In Max’s case, that’s included having the hospital pay to put a homeless man in an apartment, treating people who don’t have insurance, and loads of creative solutions that don’t always go over so well with other hospital administrators. But he gets the job done and his patients, staff, community and hospital are all the better for it.
Giving when you have nothing to give – giving from your own needs – has to be the most beautiful thing you can do in life. And, best part, it’s healing for you. If Max has one fault, it’s that he’s pretty much addicted to helping others. But that’s what it’s all about, right?
O.k., second thing I love. He’s true to who he is, always. Has no illusions of being a ‘big, important medical director.’ He walks around in medical ‘scrubs’ like all the other doctors, even when he’s meeting with important potential hospital benefactors. People periodically ask him why and he says, ‘Because I’m a doctor first.’
He’s humble, down-to-earth and, in the show’s very first episode, he’s down in a basement locker room among a group of Spanish-speaking facilities workers who are all gossiping about ‘the new medical director.’ Max, in his scrubs, doesn’t look the part and surprises them all when he explains (in perfect Spanish) that it’s him … all in good humor and with the wonderful camaraderie he shares with all his staff.
I’ve had all kinds of fancy corporate titles over the years, but at my core I’m a writer and that simple title is the only one I’ve ever really needed, wanted or cared about. The thing that makes me feel the best. The thing I’ve fought for every step of the way.
Now, as I reach a crossroads in my career, I only hope I can near-live up to the role model of Dr. Max Goodwin: staying humble, true to who I am, putting others first and always asking ‘How can I help?’