Monday, November 14, 2011

Me, the students, and a pug named Raisin.

Last Thursday, I opened my home to my October ward team which included two medical students along with the interns and resident.  Late that evening, I received a kind email from one of the students, and I was sitting there smiling. Harry looked over and asked what I was grinning about. When I told him it was in response to her email, he shook his head, chuckled and said this:

"You know you love you some med students!"

I responded to that with a hearty laugh because it was absolutely true.  Man. I adore the residents and can't get enough of the interns. Brand new faculty members always make me smile. But medical students? I don't know what it is about them. They just occupy a soft spot in my heart. Especially the earnest ones.  The ones who value their education and don't think they hung the moon and perfectly arranged the stars. I just love this phase of learning in medicine. . . .I guess it just seems so special to me. Corny, I know.

(Go ahead and wretch now. I'll wait.)

I think it's mostly because of the interactions I had with attending physicians during medical school--particularly on my medicine rotation. Internal Medicine is probably the most important clinical rotation you do as a student. Not because it's the best specialty out there, but more because it's really the foundation for everything and almost always can be applied to everything else you do--even if all that is is field the questions of nagging loved ones.  For me, the Internal Medicine rotation during third year was . . . how can I put it? Non-descript.  No one seemed to know or care what I was doing. Ever.

I spent a period of time thinking I wanted to be a surgeon during medical school. For many reasons I felt this way, but a lot of it had to do with the attention and care the surgical faculty gave me every single day as a learner. I never, ever felt invisible. They were expecting us each morning, prepared to deal with us, and always down for some teaching.  The Socratic method the surgeons used never bothered me--in fact, it was exhilarating. It pushed me to read and try.  By the end of it all? Fuggeddaboudit. I wanted to be a surgeon.

It took Dr. Robin W., a fantastic surgical faculty member, role model, and advisor, to bring it to my attention that people who go into surgery generally love being in the O.R.  "Oh that," I recall saying.  See, "that" was problem. The surgeons were rad and I wanted to be like them, but I hated being in the O.R. (I shudder just thinking about it.) I'd shift on my feet, daydream and eventually just pray for it to end. Or pray that someone would need a consult on the floor and that I'd be asked to scrub out. The scrub-out order was NIRVANA for me. (Funny, I know.) My other trick was that I'd sign up for the shortest cases and then have everything on the wards and consult teams tidied up when everyone finally finished in the operating rooms.

"Loving the wards and not the O.R. is called Medicine, Kimberly," she said matter-of-factly.  "You didn't like your Internal Medicine rotation, but that doesn't mean you don't like the field itself."

Ah hah.

And so after a few rotations at other hospitals during my fourth year of medical school, I realized that she was right.  I ended up applying to and matching in combined IM/Pediatrics, but the point is that I didn't choose surgery mostly for that reason.

Back to the students.   So that has a lot to do with why I'm so sweet on the medical students. I know first hand how important it is for faculty members to take the time for them.  I will always appreciate Dr. W. for taking the time to guide me to the right field instead of beating her bosom and declaring that she'd swayed be into surgery. How nice it would have been for her to create a little "mini-me" that year. But she didn't. She wanted me to be happy, so that meant first listening to me and then taking what she'd heard and telling me the truth. She didn't have to do that either. Many folks still don't.

I've found myself interested in our med students' futures--that is, the right future for the individual--ever since.  This means building relationships with them, and hearing what makes them tick. That happens in hallways, on wards, over coffee, and in classrooms.  But it happens. I make sure that it always does.

Thursday-day, I had a meeting with a second year student after clinic was over. That night was the team dinner. The next morning I was testing students. After that I wrote a letter of recommendation for a former student during a one hour break.  Lunch was a meeting with one of my Small Group Beta advisees. I had some free time after that, so came home and took a quick power nap. But after that? I woke up and met a third year student for coffee after seeing him looking perplexed when I asked about his future. And that meeting was abbreviated when I rounded up the afternoon by meeting with another of my SG Beta advisees.  It was a pretty student heavy thirty-six hours, I tell you.

I wouldn't have it any other way, though.  I think it makes such a huge difference, and I'm the first to say that I'm the one who gets the greatest benefit from all of it.  Any time I look back at match day last March, I know that every single moment is worth it.  Every last one.

Yesterday, one of my Small Group Beta advisees stopped by my house to show my kids her dog. I love knowing that medical students at Emory have these kinds of relationships with their advisors. . . . where a light is always on--literally--which sometimes leads impromptu visits. . . this time complete with a fiancee and a cute little pug named Raisin. 

Happy Monday.


  1. I think you are exactly where you need to be. I'm sure your med students would agree with that.

  2. As a nurse practitioner in a small hospital that has a couple of med students each rotation (one third and one fourth year shared between my supervision physician and myself), I am loving reading the posts here. We have previously only had fourth years, who required less teaching. We love to teach, and have a wide variety of cases for the students, but I am wondering how you start the third years. Do you have them gathering H&Ps, or following a fourth year then meeting up with them later? Maybe there's a post about that.

  3. Oh those lucky lucky med students to have you take an interest in them. You might even influence a surgeon or two!

  4. You.Are.Fabulous. Truly.

    And that pug in the picture totally cracks me up with his runway expression!

  5. I am post call this morning and should be sleeping, but I am glad I read this first. You made me cry - between the NICU story and this post, I have been balling for 15 minutes on and off. It is hard to put into words what I feel about medicine (as I type and backspace repeatedly now, despite being a fairly decent writer most of the time)... you put so much of it into words and stories. You fill my heart with joy in so many ways - even if I don't have a mentor like you, the conviction that such mentors do exist makes my 3rd year more meaningful right now. It motivates me to grow up in medicine and to become a mentor some day. I hope to never forget and never take for granted what an incredible privilege it is to practice medicine and what an honor it will be to teach medicine. I hope your blog will be here in 5, 10, 30+ years from now to help me remember.

    (Typos and incoherent sentences blamed on being post-call).


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails