Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Falling From Grace

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Falling from Grace2

I love Scrubs. But there is one episode that I particularly like. John McGinty plays Percival Cox, Dr. Perry Cox. He’s Resident Supervisor and all around asshole. He makes life miserable for new doctors Elliott Reed and John “JD” Dorian, as well as other staff, management and the general public at large. He good, very good. And that makes him arrogant, very arrogant.

So one day, a dying patient comes in. And doctor Cox sees an opportunity to save three patients with the organs of this one dying patient. So, he barks to his resident staff and the surgical teams to do three transplants. Problem is, Cox misdiagnoses the dying patient and puts organs infected with rabies into them. All three die.

Cox is demoralized and devastated. And because the hospital is a family deep down, all of the staff decide to set up a round the clock visitation at his home because he won’t leave his couch, he won’t shave, he won’t talk. He is a broken man.

Cox mentors JD. So, of course, he is constantly humiliating him because, in his own way, he sees it as making JD tough. JD loves it, like a puppy looking for the next belly rub. And because he idolizes Cox, it’s hard for him to admit the mistake Cox made. So he avoids his mentor while the rest of his friends cycle in and out of the big man’s apartment.

But finally, he shows up. He sits down, and you can see JD is the only one Cox really wanted to see. And JD tells him he was scared to see him fallen. The point of the visit was for JD to tell Cox how proud of him he was. He says, “after 20 years of being a doctor, when things go badly, you still take it this hard. That’s the kind of doctor I want to be.”

Sometimes, after doing years and years of something, you can forget what it took to get there. You can forget the ethical struggles and the technical hurtles and the learning curves. You can forget the stupid mistakes and the need for forgiveness. You may be an expert, yeah, but you didn’t come out of the clam shell that way. You start to take what you do for granted. And then, something happens. The Indigo Girls relate to this in their song, “Watermark”, when they sing that every five years or so, you circle back to something you think you conquered only to realize it’s just a more complicated version of the same problem.

Sometimes, you need to be hit with a cruise missile of a problem that comes out of nowhere to remind you that, no you aren’t God. You aren’t even a lesser God. And it is at that point, I think, that you get real all over again.

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Written by Interviewer

August 1, 2013 at 00:36

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