In a real sense, one might think Robert McKersie, a remarkable man indeed, has a split personality. Why? For part of each year, this extraordinary doctor heals the sick and the injured on the South Side of the city of Chicago. Here, he has the resources of hospitals, scanning machines, laboratories, the latest in pharmaceuticals. He can refer patients to top notch doctors for needed surgery, or for complex testing procedures which may save their lives.
Yet the hidden side of Dr. McKersie’s life is unusual. Part of each year, he spends on the opposite side of the globe in the remote mountains of Nepal, India, where he tends to patients who otherwise would receive little, if any, medical care. To reach the foothills of medicine where he makes critical decisions regarding the life and/or death of a patient depending on his careful diagnosis and follow up, Dr. McKersie must first travel nine hours by automobile into India's magnificent Ganesh Mountains to a base camp. Then, from here on foot, a hike of several days will take him to the first medical clinic of Tipling.
Dr. McKersie dismisses the discomforts endured on this long hike, but he will tell of the trials and courage of those carrying heavy clinical supplies and equipment over steeply inclined, seldom-trekked mountain footpaths. These precipitous ascents and descents in some places are so hazardous, that a misplaced footstep or the loss of balance can result in a death-tumble of many hundreds of feet.
Why does he travel each year to these remote medical outposts and leave his comfortable practice in the United States? The answer is simple: Doctor McKersie is a thorough idealist. In these remote mountains of Nepal he can practice medicine as it should be practiced. He can establish a relationship with patients—because they need help, because they are human, and because they are beautiful. In these remote places he does not worry about salary. Rather, he fears about curing infection, containing tuberculosis, stabilizing diabetes or a failing heart, or controlling epilepsy.
In Nepal he does not hassle over medical insurance. These mountains provide no such aid. Instead, he labors to mend a broken arm or leg, or to deliver a baby, or to give advice to a heart attack victim and her/his caregivers. Nor does this doctor obsess about begging specialists to see poor or underprivileged patients free of charge. He and a handful of doctors and nurses are the "general" specialists. They provide what help they can, then counsel village family members on continuing care.
Dr. McKersie’s life is not just a story of one person's legacy to heal his fellow man on opposite sides of the globe. It is an epic of courage, passion, enlightenment, inspiration and above all, a tale of human love. Does he recognize his virtue? Of course not; persons of his caliber are blind to their own goodness. He is a physician in love with the beauty of human existence.
Here in the States, Dr. McKersie attempts to arrange needed health care for seriously ill patients lacking insurance. In addition, there is the ongoing struggle for affordable medicines for those without big bucks. In the end, people who cannot pay for health care in this country are tantamount to a Nepalese villager.
This miraculous healer's life is an adventure to help the sick and the suffering, and to promote social change in two vastly different cultures: Nepal and the United States. His life and his vision have a special message for everyone involved in health care here at home. In his name, let us affirm and then apply Obama’s health plan as best we can to all U.S. citizens.