Sunday, November 11, 2012

Teachable Moments II: Low incidence ≠ Low Importance

One of the most interesting aspects of second year is the team based learning components that are usually led by a physician who is a specialist on the particular topic we are studying (ie dermatopathology is taught by dermatologists).  These sessions are interactive and allow us to exercise some applications of the knowledge we have learned.  I really appreciate the higher percentage of MDs associated with our curriculum now versus first year that is very PhD heavy.  This isn't a criticism but rather an observation but is to be expected with a first year focus on basic science while second year starts to diffuse a serious clinical background into our learning.

While working through a patient case regarding some highly rare disease we all were disgruntled at the professor for having chosen something that was so unlikely.  One classmate raised his hand and voiced this concern: what's the point of talking about something that is so rare.  The professor's response to this is something that really resonated with me he said

"just because a disease is rare does not mean that it is rare for that patient"

It really hit me what those words meant and why we learn all of the minutia that we do.  Someone somewhere has this and if that someone happens to wander into my office I want to have the ability to help--to identify, to diagnose, to treat--with humanity.  Thats what got me, it was a reminder of the humility and humanity that is so quickly drowned out in a sea of lab values and patient findings.

When you step outside the house and its raining your first thought probably isn't welllll the chances of precipitation were only 25% so the fact that i'm 100% sure its currently raining is bothering me less.  To always be cognizant of each and every patient as a person, however cheesy and obvious that sound, is a principle I will strive to uphold in my career.

I have to admit that I never expected to be sitting in a classroom being lectured at and having that shape my clinical perspective, but it has.  Bringing physicians to us in a learning capacity provides us a tremendous asset in bridging the gap between book learning and clinical experiences.  That being said I think the most lasting and impactful lessons I am learning are when someone who has been a doctor for 30 years passes on a pearl like this one.  All day people teach at me how to read an EKG, how to differentiate between crackles and rales or how best to use an ophthalmoscope (left, left, left <-- more on that later) but what I want is someone to remind us how to do this while maintaining poise, grace and ultimately respect for the people who we serve.  I want more professors to remind us that becoming doctors doesn't gives us superhuman status, that it doesn't automatically grant us some kind of authority but instead we are being entrusted with an amazing responsibility.

for even more naive optimism and borderline preachy rhetoric see this old post

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