Often, the act of forgetting takes on a bad connotation – ranging from less problematic to disastrous. Consider the marital strife created from “I forgot our anniversary.” “I’m sorry” doesn’t tend to cut it with such a meaningful event, yet this apology might be more forgivable for a missed appointment. Such memory lapses can be early warning signs of a devastating disease like Alzheimer’s. But, and this may at first glance seem counterintuitive, the capacity to forget provides a survival advantage - especially in its ability to assuage suffering.
Forgetting is a very important component to the value of memory.
Time and again, I would round at the hospital on the labor and delivery ward encountering first-time parents and their just delivered precious baby. Often war-weary in their most vulnerable of moments, I would internally chuckle as I would ask the newbies, “So, when’s the next one coming?” It never failed to get a laugh and the facial expressions were always worth capturing. Every time the refrain was rapidly reflexive, “Are you kidding? This is it. I am not doing this again.”
But, I knew in roughly two years when the intensity of the thirty-six-hour labor had faded, and the experience was framed as more of a heartwarming family tale those parents would be inevitably right back in the hospital with their second born. And my standard “Oh, but I thought you were done, never again” would be met with “Nah, it wasn’t so bad. We never said it was rough.”
And let’s not forget the power of the cuteness that facilitates the perpetuation of humanity. It is a formidable force.
With the passage of time, life happens. Loves and losses shape our evolving perspective. Sprinkle in some nostalgia and the thought of making memories down the line and the urge for a sibling for the baby to share it with overpowers -- thereby dissipating the memory of the pain to an afterthought.
You see, our adaptability often stems from a vast capacity to compartmentalize memory, then abandon it to wash away suffering. Think about the many social slights or even heartaches we encounter that are hurtful and unnerving. Yet, the most resilient of us go on to forge new friendships and fall in love again.
Forgetting is often invaluable in moving past physical and emotional pain. So, while it is good to remember so as not to repeat the same mistakes, our natural, protective disregard for the torment endured can be quite an extraordinary gift.
Dr. Jamie Wells, MD, FAAP, is an award-winning Board-Certified physician with over a decade of experience caring for patients and the Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. She served as a Clinical Instructor/Attending at NYU Langone, Mt. Sinai-Beth Israel and St. Vincent's Medical Centers in Manhattan. Dr. Wells graduated from Yale University with honors, was inducted as a junior and elected President of Jefferson Medical College's Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society and has been named a New York Super Doctor, repeatedly, in the NY Times magazine supplement listing the top 5% of physicians in over 30 medical specialties as chosen by their peers.
A National Merit Scholar, Dr. Wells was identified for her academic excellence early on when she was selected by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) for its prestigious Research Science Institute (RSI) and was featured as one of the top twenty high school students in the nation in USA TODAY as a recipient of their scholarship. At Yale, she was President of the Yale Science and Engineering Association, majored in American Studies and concentrated in media and film, spending her final year researching her senior essay entitled, "Ebola: The Making of an Epidemic"-- exploring the power of the governmental, political, public health and media machines and their desire to work in harmony when there is a common economic concern. In medical school, she maintained various leadership and elected positions (such as Editorials Editor of the school paper and editing guides to passing Board Exams) while creating mentoring and tutoring programs and spearheading countless volunteer activities that served the school and local Philadelphia communities. During this time, she did research for the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus of patients with Essential Tremor and Parkinson's Disease.
She was a grant reviewer for Komen's 2018-2019 Community Grants Program and has judged the local, district and world championships for Dean Kamen’s F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) robotics competition as well as the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen scholarship competition for which she was recently nominated and, subsequently, elected to be a member of its Board of Directors. Dr. Wells is on the Leadership Council of The Wistar Institute (the nation's first independent biomedical research facility and certified cancer center). She has been awarded America's Top Pediatricians, America’s Top Physicians Honors of Distinction and Excellence, Compassionate Doctors Award, Patients Choice Award (honors given by patients to less than 3% of the nation's 720,000 active physicians) and been recognized for her exemplary care of those with Cystic Fibrosis. Dr. Wells was named a Doctor of Excellence which profiles the world’s leading doctors who have demonstrated success and leadership in their profession. For the better part of a decade, she answered all of the medical inquiries on line for the Boomer Esiason Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's website in a section entitled, ASK DR. WELLS.
Whether she is published, for example, in the acclaimed journal Neoreviews for a case involving a near drowning of an infant via water birth, USA Today regarding the mysterious illness of US diplomats in Cuba or the Huffington Post in response to the Dolce & Gabbana controversy or 10 ways to Save Your Life or the Life of a Loved One, it is a longstanding passion of hers to make science and health understanding accessible to all. She champions empowering others to be their own advocate in healthcare and has given talks to various audiences from struggling expectant mothers and parenting groups to undergraduates, spoken on panels as well as emphasized education to patients under her care. Believing she wanted to be a brain surgeon, she began her first residency in neurosurgery, ultimately switching fields to pediatrics. As a result, her knowledge is vast in the medical realm and sought after by innumerable media outlets.
Dr. Wells’ greatest asset is making complicated material palatable for people in a nonthreatening, often humorous way. Her opinion as a medical expert has been showcased on live and taped local, national and international television programs that run the gamut from CNN, Fox National News Channel, ABC News, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera TV, NY 1, CBS, TLC, Fox Business Network, Fox 5, Parent TV, CUNY-TV, My 9, Arise TV and so on having been featured in an hour length show on Discovery Health and, repeatedly, on Sirius Radio for Martha Stewart Living. She is a huge proponent of the health benefits of animals and was certified with her adorable and gifted English Bulldog, Mollie Joe, as a therapy team.
We asked New York City to guess her profession and no one got it right: