The Tyranny of Advanced Degrees and Wealth

One of things that stymies the pursuit of many of my clients and patients from becoming their own authorities in their health is the “putting on a pedestal” of people with advanced degrees and wealth.   My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD would say that is like erecting an idol for yourself.  Experts with degrees are important only to the extent that they serves as resources for information and in some cases to be teachers to help you along the way.   What I tend to see happen is people tend to make those people more valuable than they are themselves.

As far as wealth goes, have you noticed how if Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk say something completely unrelated to their realm of expertise, it makes headlines?   They have money because they know how to make money through a select business or businesses.  That’s it.   Of course, some businesses do provide real value to society, but that doesn’t make the person with great wealth any more valuable than you and certainly no more qualified to make pronouncements about anything anymore than anyone else.  For some wealthy people, they just have a very narrow skill, that just happens to correlate with more money and does not relate in anyway to the level of wisdom they have in anything else.   

Additionally, many people with great “success” don’t even have great insight into why they are “successful.”   Robert Ringer makes note in his bombastically titled book “Winning by Intimidation” which should really be called “How to Win by Avoiding Being Intimidated” (though that wouldn’t sell as well) explains that one of the reasons that books on “success” are often all over the place in terms of recommendations is not only because the hard truth of “success” is often not sellable but also because many people with great “success,”  don’t actually have a lot of insight into why they are successful.

Bringing this back to health, (which as the cliche says, is actually a form of wealth), is that the whole edifice of modern medicine is structured as such a rigid hierarchy that it can often feel imposing and intimidating to people coming into it and how we ordinarily would act.   Hierarchy is after all, needed, it is required for a standard of care to be enforced but as we have spoken about elsewhere, this is the man- made world which tends to depersonalize people. When it comes to the real world of human beings no two of which are alike, there is bound to be some conflict if you insist on maintaining your freedom..   My father is also a medical doctor and taught me that my job is to serve the patient and earn their trust and respect.  The word Doctor comes from the root to teach.  Doctors are there to advise, teach, and gain your trust that they can help you while you maintain your freedom always, which is your God-given responsibility.  

I believe that a certain doctor coming into your life at a certain moment can often be a Divine intervention for your health but if anything that just means that you would be grateful to God for putting this person in your life to help you.   Your job during this process is to make sure you keep your freedom by reminding yourself that you know yourself better than anyone and not allow institutions even medical ones from taking away that uniqueness. 

In the immortal words of Hillel, which I think about often when this comes up and sums up how you should relate to yourself and others: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am only for myself what am I, and if not now when.” 

Image above by Democracy Chronicles

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Jonathan Carp, MD

Dermatologist, health food entrepreneur, beach addict, and health teacher.