A Patient Surprises Dr. Sisti With a Gift No Money Can Buy

The gifts that move us, tug at our hearts, come when we least expect them and, in an instant, remind us of what’s important. Looking at the gift-wrapped box from his patient, Dr. Michael B. Sisti of Columbia Neurosurgery, didn’t know what the contents could be. Upon unwrapping the gift and reading the handwritten note, he was humbled by his patient’s generosity and reminded of what an honor it is to be a patient’s neurosurgeon.

Dr. Sisti’s patient Dave Cowden gave him a beautiful piece of sentimental framed artwork, a print of the original painting, titled “The Doctor.” With it came the following note from his patient.

“The Doctor,” painted by Sir Luke Fildes in 1887 and now on display at The Tate Britain in London, is famous in the field of medicine because it represents the qualities of a good doctor.

In the painting, an anxious doctor is watching his patient, a child laid across two chairs pushed together to form a makeshift bed. The child’s parents linger in the shadowed background, while light from a lamp illuminates the doctor and child. Art critics suggest that the light beaming on the patient indicates a sense of hope; the child is showing signs of recovery.

Capturing but a single moment, this painting shows the care the doctor has provided, leading up to these early signs of recovery.

The doctor’s persistent care can be seen in a half-empty medicine bottle on the table and, opposite to the table, the water jug and bowl on the bench. In this time period, a water jug and bowl would have been used to bring down a fever. Experts suspect the scraps of paper littered on the floor to be prescriptions.

Together, these items suggest the extent of the illness and the diligent care the doctor provided for his patient.

Having treated more than 5,000 patients himself, Dr. Sisti can relate to the emotions portrayed in this painting. He too invests extra time and energy into his patients and their needs when treating their illnesses.

During his 30 years as a neurosurgeon at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Sisti has blended his compassion with expert knowledge of complex brain tumors, meningiomas and acoustic neuromas to provide the best care.

Though “The Doctor” carries admirable meaning on its own, when the painting comes from a patient who commends Dr. Sisti’s dedication to an honorable profession, it is truly a gift no money can buy.