Med Student Recalls Being Kidnapped and Thrown Into a Trunk


August 13, 2019

Dealing with hardened criminals and risking his life in police work also became helpful in caring for patients and being in difficult patient situations, says Saffran.

Because police officers often interact with people in highly stressful, frightening, or threatening situations, Saffran felt that as a cop, having had to deal with people in distress or behaving badly is very helpful with some patients, particularly with resolving arguments.

"I developed the skill of listening to what people were telling me rather than what they were saying," he said. "People will often say a bunch of stuff with words, but that isn't necessarily what they actually mean or feel. And as a cop, learning how to kind of cope with good people at their worst and being able to keep a clear head is very useful."

Life-threatening danger was a regular part of undercover police work, but for Saffran, the drive to help people and improve lives made it worthwhile. "When things went as they as they ought to, it was an incredible thrill, and that satisfaction of feeling like I was making a difference, was great. Like, if I was working a big case, and if a building was completely infested with operators from a drug cartel, and they were suddenly taken out — now people who lived in that building could come and go without being harassed. That was a really good feeling."

Saffran is aware that burnout is a potential threat, but he feels that he's already surmounted so much stress and exhaustion that such situations don't bother him. "I've been exposed to situations where if I was going to burn out, I would have burned out. I do get exhausted, but the thing that you're most concerned about is then becoming jaded and losing empathy. That has not happened to me."

Saffran also weighed in on the controversial topic of physicians talking to patients about gun safety. The National Rifle Association has told physicians to "stay in your lane" regarding promoting gun control.

Because guns and other weapons were key elements in Saffran's prior life, he sees no problem with physicians talking to gun-owning patients about improving gun safety at home.

"Any conversation you can have with your patient that is conducive to their safety and health, and the safety and health of people around them is a good thing," said Saffran. "Especially if a patient has been exhibiting signs of depression, or maybe a patient looks like he or she has been the victim of some kind of abuse, it would be good to know if there are firearms in that house. Or just knowing if there are children in the home. I think it's our responsibility to keep people safe."

As far as his future, Saffran said he especially enjoyed his surgery rotation, and in addition, he really liked his geriatric patients. He commented, "I know that I want to run a lab, and I want to see patients. So it's hard to say exactly where the future will go."

Given his unique background, Saffran feels that he has some useful advice for medical students or practicing physicians: "It's okay to struggle," he says. "Sometimes people freak out because they're struggling. And sometimes the struggle is the price for the rewards that you're working toward. Struggles are not equally distributed among everybody, and certain people have challenges. But those challenges can translate into opportunities, because they give you the chance to demonstrate what you can overcome."


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