“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I keep a “grrr” list. It has a simple premise: when I am frustrated by a failure of the healthcare system, I write it down. Every time something makes me think, “we could do that better,” it goes onto the list. Our patient does not have insurance coverage for rehabilitation, so she goes home and is quickly readmitted—“grrr.” The hospital is over capacity, so our postoperative patient spends a night in the post-procedure unit and becomes delirious—“grrr.” A family agonizes over decisions about their father’s care because no one is sure of his wishes—“grrr.” Our healthcare system continues to fall short of delivering the care we both need and deserve.

While individual patients drive entries on my “grrr” list, the patterns that emerge suggest shared themes. Over time, I weave the threads of individual frustrations into the fabric of opportunities to rebuild our system with the patient at the center. We can, and we will, do better. As a surgeon, I will dedicate my life to helping each individual patient on their healthcare journey. As an advocate, I will challenge us to rethink what we do, working toward a day when my “grrr” list is empty.

— Katie Rowe