This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Dr. Gulchin Ergun

Dr. Ergun’s given name is Gülchin, but everyone calls her “Gilchy.” The native of Chicago and noted gastroenterologist moved to Houston 10 years ago to head-up a newly created center to treat and diagnose reflux disease. Today, she remains the Director of the Reflux Center at The Methodist Hospital and is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Her life is busy, but recently discovered the value of stopping and taking time to think…simply think and reflect. And it’s the focus of her essay for KUHF’s “This I Believe.”

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Dr. Ergun is a first generation American. Her parents (both physicians) moved to the United States from Turkey. They first moved to Chicago, but moved to several cities including Cleveland. Along the way, they had four children including “Gilchy.” When young “Gilchy” decided to pursue medicine as a career, her mother wasn’t too encouraging reminding her how difficult it would be to balance medicine and a family. On the other hand, her father was thrilled with “Gilchy’s” plan and he shared his excitement. It was a good career choice. She loved it and it led her to Houston. Since her arrival 10 years ago, she’s been an ambassador for her new hometown. The Houstonian-by-choice loves her city and remains impressed with The Texas Medical Center and all the remarkable work that takes place there.

Here’s Dr. Gülchin Ergun with her essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
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“Being a doctor, work has always taken up the largest part of my life. Sure I made time for dinners, vacations even exercise, but I didn’t make the time for personal enrichment. So when I saw that a writing class was offered in my hospital, I signed up.

First assignment—write about your name. I sat down and I seriously thought about my foreign name with its funny spelling and the difficult to pronounce ‘ü.’ I considered the meaning of the words, how having Turkish parents shaped my life. I thought about how I saw myself as a hybrid with the Americanized spelling the symbol of how I straddled my heritage with one foot in the Midwest and the other in the Middle East. The next one was to address something that had posed a conflict. That took me to the bedside of a woman devastated by a stroke that I met when I was an intern. I recalled how she died the night that she came in, surrounded by her family, as I first wondered if it was ever okay to turn off a ventilator.

Week after week, I made the time to think. Not tidy the house or do the bills. Simply think. Doing my homework, I discovered that I had accumulated a wealth of experiences. I had a treasure trove stuffed with pearls of wisdom and self discovery. But my biggest reward came from realizing that I had been yearning to do this. I had been hungering to do something this simple yet so rich—to just think about my life.

The classes didn’t change how I think but did allow me to focus my thoughts. I considered how I had come across patients and families at pivotal points in their lives and casually discussed their issues in conferences or hallways. I learned that spending the time to explore these encounters gave me an insight not seen at first glance and writing about them allowed me to share the intensity of these events in a different way.

I still struggle in making time for myself but I happily eke it out to think and once I’ve mulled things over, I try to take some time to write. Somehow thinking, reflecting, puts things into perspective and writing captures nuances I’ve come to see.

So when I lean back in my chair and stare off into space, I’m not being frivolous with my most precious commodity. I do it because I find it satisfying and because I believe that it’s important to take the time to think.”

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