Training log: Eleven thousand miles and untold pairs of sneakers.
For 15 years, I logged miles running the forest trails and
streets of Durham, North Carolina.
5 a.m.: Miami. I approached the hotel front
morning. I want to go running and was hoping you could tell
me which way to go.”
“I can tell you which way not to go—don’t
go that way,” he said, pointing behind him. “Thanks!” It
is important to know where not to go.
Mile 1: Doubt
Leaving the hotel,
I recognized a street with shops; last night it had been
full of lights and life but
now it was quiet. I
started to run.
I imagined myself back in Durham and thought
of the familiarity that I was about to leave. I had spent
15 years building my
career as an academic general internist. What was I doing,
moving to Miami? I ran past darkened shops wondering whether
this was a good idea after all.
Mile 2: Reflection
I was now in a
quiet neighborhood, palm trees lining the streets.
Over the next few days, I would meet many
faculty and trainees. In my new leadership roles, my success
will be measured by
the success of these people. How can I foster a culture
of nurturing, respect, and responsibility? How can I gain
Ahead of me, I was suddenly aware of a shadowy
figure blocking the center of the sidewalk. As I drew near,
I saw that the
figure was a man in a wheelchair. I slowed down to check
on him: quiet, easy respirations, no signs of distress. He
simply sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk. The comfort
and safety of the houses around us seemed to glare at this
homeless man, exposing his vulnerability.
Mile 3: Commitment
I increased my
pace and the distance between us grew. What was his circumstance?
I thought of my responsibility
for the most vulnerable of our patients. As a clinician,
I touch the lives of individual people, like this man. As
I can amplify that effect—to make a larger impact on
the health of entire populations.
I was suddenly upon a traffic circle.
Mile 4: Dawn
The canal appeared out
of nowhere—early morning light
casting a glow on the water to my left. Towering trees emerged
from the lush landscape along the edge of the water. Making
my way around the traffic circle, I felt inspired by the
scenery and recounted my aspirations in this transition:
to lead with
passion and integrity; to work hard; to have fun; to listen;
to value the unique contribution of every person; and to
sincerely believe that together we can make a difference.
The houses were now mansions with gated driveways.
This was not the same street on which I started my journey.
and late, I sprinted back toward the traffic circle to retrace
Mile 5: Day
The homeless man was gone.
I saw shops again; people stirred as light grew brighter
and day began. Looking
forward, I felt
eager to meet my new colleagues and find ways to facilitate
our collective success.
Training log: Five miles down and a mere 10,995
left to run. Like all other challenges, the only way to attack
one mile at a time.
The hotel front desk was busy now. The clerk
nodded as I passed. “Did
you find your way?”
“Yes. In fact, I did.”
Sheri Keitz, M.D., Ph.D., is associate dean for faculty diversity
and development at the Miller School of Medicine, chief of
medicine at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and
an adviser on diversity to University President Donna E. Shalala.