Happy National Doctors’ Day!

Earlier this week, I had an unexpected but rewarding conversation with our volunteer medical director during one of our evening clinics. I say “unexpected” because, to me, when Dr. Troise is at the clinic, she seems to take her work so seriously that sometimes she can be a little intimidating. Still, I was grateful to talk with her because of everything she does for our patients. For example, she reviews all of our patients’ lab work, and she teaches medical students at our free clinic several times per month, which was the reason why she was around that evening.

Between seeing patients and coaching her students, Dr. Troise sat down at her laptop next to me in the clinic’s volunteer room. After a volunteer interpreter mentioned the book she was reading—Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie—Dr. Troise listened before saying that she enjoyed the life lessons that it offered, shared by a gentleman getting ready to die. “It’s so important to take the time to connect with people,” she said.

From there, we talked about the need for med students to interact with patients, saying that when she was in school, even med students took 24-hour shifts in the hospital. She expressed regret that many physicians tend to spend more time looking at their computer screens than at their patients. And she reflected on the desire of many doctors to be out the door at 5:00 PM each day. Although understandable, that outlook seemed to conflict with Dr. Troise’s core beliefs about a doctor’s work—namely, that medicine is not just a job, but a vocation, a calling.

I’ll admit that, by the end of the evening, there almost seemed to be more bad than good. I certainly had a wider perspective on the problems that I expect to face in med school and beyond. But as I stood at the door to wish Dr. Troise a good night (she was still at her laptop, working on her notes), she shared something that gave me some clarity. “The most important thing to remember,” she said, “Is that medicine is really about your patients, and that those patients are real people.”

Later in the week, she elaborated: “I truly believe that the beauty of medicine is in the patient-doctor connection.  There is more to healing than writing a prescription. Sometimes just listening accomplishes far more than a medication.”

Dr. Troise, thank you for all your hard work and for your commitment to your patients. I’ll do my best to put your advice into practice.

What about you? Is there a person you know who inspires you to be a great doctor?

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