A stream of anxious, toe-stomping passengers parade down the aisle of the aircraft, praying for the toilet door to open. I share the back row with a soap-opera-handsome heart surgeon bound for a medical conference in Boston. We exchange pleasantries.
“People don’t really change their behavior,” he tells me. “For years I’ve been advising beer-bellied patients to exercise and diet but they just move on to their next pepperoni pizza. I may be able to prolong their lives, but getting them to change their bad habits? Forget about it!”
Feeling like this is a specious argument, I’m eager to engage. I will start the great healthcare revolution high above the State of Indiana.
“People change all the time,” I offer. “You’re the perfect guy to encourage this. You speak to people when they are most likely to be receptive. They respect and trust you. Have you ever heard of Bill Miller and Motivational Interviewing?”
A condescending smirk appears on the surgeon’s face as if to say, “You’re an optimistic old man who has just challenged years of training and experience. Your visitation time has expired.”
He reaches into his brown leather briefcase to retrieve a white paper for his conference. Ignoring me, he furiously begins to dissect the paper with his pen.
Obviously, the surgeon is in precontemplation. He needs some consciousness-raising. I’m up to the challenge, and I start crafting a response in my head.
“My words will make a difference,” my self-talk says. “This will be the beginning of a dramatic shift in healthcare in the United States. In fact, all medical professionals, pharmaceutical salespeople and politicians will recognize how our national fiscal crisis can be solved when individuals understand that they are the most important members of their healthcare team, that the little choices they make each day will make them healthier and happier.”
I turn to face my first apostle in this great movement.
He already has put his earplugs in.
Dejected, I stare back at the stream of toe-stomping toilet-goers, recognizing their time for relief has not yet arrived.