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Curiosity: what makes a doctor truly great

I have never been invited to give a commencement address. The closest I came was my own high school graduation, when I was the unofficial valedictorian. Since my academy did not have a tradition of the highest-ranked student addressing the class on graduation daytime, though, I didn’t get the chance. Our commencement speaker, a television news anchor and former postgraduate, extradited a great speech that I still remember more vividly than the addresses by bigger lists at my college, medical institution, and public health graduation ceremonies.Obviously, I have not had the good fortune of hearing Dr. Atul Gawande speak at a graduation.( Atul, if you’re reading this, Georgetown University School of Medicine would be delighted to have you address a future graduating class .) In 2018 he gave a profoundly insightful address at UCLA that went viral on social media. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but the place he drove dwelling is that in a season when discrimination and unequal treatment have become as socially acceptable in some cliques as in the pre-American Civil Rights era, it remains the sacred calling of medication to recognize that all lives have equal worth, and that the physicians and patients share a “common core of humanity”: Without being open to their humanity, it is impossible to provide good care to people–to insure, for instance, that you’ve given them fairly anesthetic before doing a procedure. To recognize their humanity, you must put yourself in their shoes. That requires a willingness to ask parties what it’s like in those shoes. It requires interest about others and the world beyond your boarding zone.Curiosity. If remedy was simply about the science of the human body in health and disease, I would never have become a family doctor. Fortunately, that isn’t so; in fact, after years of practice I often feel that the science has become incidental to doctoring. Yes, the knowledge base for medicine is always expanding, but as I tell students, irrespective of what plain of remedy you choose, the technical facets eventually become routine. Even disaster and family physicians, who encounter the largest variety of manifestations and identifications, get acclimated to bread-and-butter meetings: back pain, chest pain, respiratory infections, the management of common chronic conditions under or out of control.What maintains my work meaningful is learning about the details of my patients’ lives that aren’t solely medical. As Dr. Faith Fitzgerald wrote in a classic article two decades ago: What does interest have to do with the humanistic practice of medicine? … I believe that it is curiosity that alters strangers( the objects of analysis) into people we can empathize with. To be involved in feelings and ideas of one’s patients–to empathize–one must be curious enough to know the patients: their courages, cultures, spiritual and physical responses, hopes, past, and social environs. Truly inquisitive beings go beyond science into art, autobiography, literature, and conversation as part of the practice of medicine.Then, as now, persuades to be efficient in evaluating cases threatened to suppress natural interest. Dr. Fitzgerald bemoaned an educational system that produces medical students who were too un-curious to ask a patient how he had been pierced in the groin by a snake( “How could one not request? ” ), or to question the “BKA( below-knee amputation) hours two” description in the following chart of individual patients who plainly had legs. Eventually, she mentioned one patient who had been regarded by the housestaff to be the “dullest”( least interesting) on the service: an old woman who( upon further investigation) turned out to have survived the sinking of the Titanic. 2020 alumnus, I am delighted that many of you will be entering family practice this year, but irrespective of the medical specialty you’ve chosen, don’t ever cease to be curious – especially about the most “difficult” patients and the ones you least understand. It is that skill, more than any other, that will sustain you in your work and that separates the purely skilled doctors from the absolutely great ones .** This berth firstly appeared on Common Sense Family Doctor on June 4, 2018 and in a slightly different form as “What Makes A Doctor Truly Great” in the November/ December 2018 FPM.

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