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‘How can I help?’

American actor Ryan Eggold plays the altruistic Dr Max Goodwin in New Amsterdam.
When Dr Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) is appointed Medical Director of New Amsterdam public hospital in the namesake medical television drama set in New York City, the first thing he does is to gather all the resident doctors and heads of departments in the auditorium and ask a simple question – “How can I help?”

The question sets the tone for the series which takes us through Max’s life at the hospital (inspired by the real Bellevue Hospital in NYC) as he sets about reforming the neglected medical centre and delivering exceptional healthcare to every patient, even those with criminal backgrounds and without money, insurance or next of kin.

Max is respected, charming and idealistic, and is on a one-man mission to do good for others both within and outside the hospital, but his honest and altruistic intentions often find him at loggerheads with the bureaucracy, the hospital chair, and the doctors and staff. His close friends, who head some of the departments, are in his corner and even though they know he means well, they’re not convinced he will fulfil his dream of making New Amsterdam one of the greatest public service hospitals in history.

After all, things are seldom how we think they should be. From one perspective, the practice of idealism, of wanting to make a difference, may seem morally excellent. But, conversely, it’s unrealistic to expect positive change almost overnight.

Yet, nothing stops Max, not even his personal battles – a cancer scare, coming to terms with the death of his wife, his emotional reluctance to get into another relationship or the feeling of being torn between his duty to the hospital and his new-born daughter. He is relentless and infuriating in his quest, even disrupting everyday life at New Amsterdam, as he tries to implement one radical change after another for the greater good of all those who walk or wheeled through the doors of his hospital. Even if it means breaking the rules to heal the system.

So when Max tells his colleagues “How can I help?” and then proceeds to do just that because he believes he can make a positive impact on people’s lives, he is essentially living the Gandhian philosophy of “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Max knows he can’t be the change if he doesn’t lead by example and so he tries to live a life that is aligned with universally cherished values – he is kind, empathetic, generous, a good listener, and willing to sacrifice his own interests and safety. And while he doesn’t always succeed in his noble ventures, even his small gestures have a significant impact on those around him, brightening their day and making a difference in their lives.

Dr Max Goodwin may not exist in real life, but his heartfelt expression “How can I help?” is both a profound and powerful lesson on how we can make this world a better place.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

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