Why do we look back? What do we gain from digging into our past, exploring our roots, rehashing our mistakes, re-living horrible catastrophes of history? We are from our past, it is indelibly etched in our genes. In medicine, we must learn from our mistakes and bad outcomes, in history, we must understand in hopes no to ever relive the horrors. In families, we connect-to those we love and those we wished we knew. After my recent visit to my parents, I have finally arranged to journey back in time with my mother. In June, we will use the opportunity of a course I am organizing in Munich (Novalis Circle: http://www.novaliscircle.org) as a jumping off point to Poland and Berlin-an exploration of our roots. My grandmother was born and raised in Poland and despite little formal education still had the amazing insight that allowed escape from Nazi Germany that makes this trip a celebration of hope, freedom, intelligence and determination rather than a desolate journey. For as long as I can remember, she has been my inspiration and my support. Though her 97+ years ended nearly a decade ago, she remains a huge part of me-my conscience, my honesty, my compassion and much more. Because of her, I am constantly in search of improving myself for my patients, of unadulterated honesty when it comes to bad outcomes, of constant intellectual questioning of what neurosurgery is and should be.I don't know what I will find in The Pale of Poland (for an overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_of_Settlement), in Halberstadt where she was married, or on the street where she worked in Berlin before her epic escape but I know it will bring me closer to this special lady and to my entire family and I will be a better person for it.
If Nana has her way, it will make me a better neurosurgeon, too.