Dialogue with the Dean
In May, members of the Class of 2010 walked across the stage at Powell Symphony Hall during precommencement ceremonies and walked into a world of uncertainty.
The U.S. health care system is facing major changes that will challenge the traditional role of physicians and the relationship between doctor and patient. In the January installment of the School of Medicine’s Dialogue with the Dean, Dean Philip O. Alderson asked alumni what advice they would give today’s medical students in these uncertain times. Here are some of their responses:
I always tell my students two things: 1) Choose something that they like and are interested in. 2) Choose something that they are good at. We cannot predict medical politics or future reimbursement. We can choose what we are genuinely interested in. We also need to be successful in our choice or it will not bring happiness in the long term. Thomas Applewhite, M.D. ’79
You must do what you love to do. Before you enter medical school, all you have to decide is whether you want to become a doctor. Then, open your mind. Learn as much about each field as you can. This learning process can sometimes be overwhelming. Eventually, you will choose a field that you feel is both challenging and rewarding. Maybe you will change your mind. Politics and reform will always be there. Change will come. We do not know what that will be. That is OK. Enjoy the journey. You will only pass this way once. Catherine Beal, M.D. ‘82
One should not think just of one practice type. It would be like a salesman or a shop keeper because as interesting as medicine is, there is plenty of rote. Keep thinking of new things that advance medicine and do adventurous deeds by giving back. Nathan Blumberg, M.D. ‘59
1. There is only one way you can go through the rigors of training, the endless task of continuing education, the paperwork and the physical and psychological demands of being a physician, and it is because you love it and can't imagine doing anything else. If it is your life's calling, it is not work and every day is an opportunity, not something to dread. 2. If you enter into medicine with the anticipation or expectation of wealth, pick another field. Not because a comfortable economic lifestyle is not possible, it is the wrong endpoint and you always will be disappointed no matter how much you make. 3. Don't listen to anyone older than yourself talk about the good old days of medicine. You will live and practice in your own good old days, and that will be different from the generation that takes your place. 4. Respect your patient's time, it is as valuable as yours. 5. Never lie to your patients or hedge the truth, no matter how dire the news. Paul Busse, M.D. ‘82
Pick a type practice that you enjoy. You may try one and then change it. I went from private practice to academic medicine. In spite of a reduced earning potential, I was able to raise 6 children and educate them in private Catholic colleges, and retire comfortably 13 years ago. If you do not enjoy what you do you will not do a good job. Do not sacrifice your family for your medical practice, but always give your best to your patients. Bernard “Bernie” DeLeo, M.D. ‘58
Look at all of the fields of medicine and choose the one that is of greatest interest to you. If you have no passion for the specialty chosen, your life in medicine will become difficult. On the contrary, if you are excited by the work you are doing, you will maintain your love of medicine and best serve your patients. Maintain a life outside of medicine. Make your family first in importance as you serve your patients. It is not necessary to neglect your family in order to be a good physician. Keep or develop an interest in the arts, skills in sports or hobbies. These interests will make you a better human being and a better physician. William Fogarty, M.D. ‘60
Approaches to medical education have and will continue to change over time. So, too, with insurance and reimbursement. So, too, with the details of office or hospital practice. The one constant, however, is the interaction between the patient who is ill and the physician who seeks diagnosis, treatment, perhaps cure, but always relief of suffering for that patient. This is why our society must always find a way to support the education and practice of talented physicians. Thomas Olsen, M.D. ‘79
Accept responsibility for your life-long learning adventure. Live below your means. Elizabeth Sapala, M.D. ‘70
Immerse yourself in simulation. As more competencies become evident and metrics for those competencies become more demanding, my vision is that simulation will offer not only instruction and practice opportunities, but also a metric for some of these competencies. Anthony Scalzo, M.D. ‘79
1.Your choice of medicine as a career should be based on the feeling that you can make a difference in the health care of ALL patients, regardless of ability to pay. Whatever health care reform is ultimately enacted should not influence you in this decision. But I believe that medical care should not be dictated by government but by joint decision between patient and physician. 2. Treat the whole patient - this means good communication with patient and family, as well as understanding their spiritual and psychological needs. Thomas Schneider, M.D. ‘58
1. Prepare yourself to the best of your abilities. 2. Always maintain the highest of ethical standards. John Selhorst, M.D. ‘67
Do not sacrifice quality for quantity when caring for your patients. Primary care is important, however, we need talented and disciplined specialists. Do not lose sight of your original goals with regard to your medical career. Elizabeth Sugarbaker, M.D. ‘91
Continue to be patient centric as I was taught at SLU. In spite of everything, medicine is a great profession. Robert Touchon, M.D. ‘65
Please learn as much about our health care delivery system while in medical school. There comes a huge awakening to reality once you finish residency regarding how you as a physician will survive in a business that has an increasing number of patients and decreasing revenues. You go into medical school thinking you can save the world and have every intention of doing so much good for so many people. Keep that intention, but couple it with reality. Medicine is a noble profession but at the same time serves as a career for those who choose it, which means it will provide you and your family with an income which must be managed wisely. In an era of decreasing reimbursement, you will find it increasingly more difficult to achieve the lifestyle once enjoyed by the profession as more patients need to be seen just to pay the bills, let alone save for your future. Learn as much as you can about fiscal responsibility now because the debt that you will be saddled with will not go away quickly or painlessly. Make wise financial choices but always stay focused on what is most important in your career - the patient - and you will never go wrong. Michael Willing, M.D. ‘97
First, and foremost, choose a field of medicine that you feel will give you intellectual and personal satisfaction. Remember, you are going to spend almost all of your time, for the rest of your life, working in and continuing to learn about the field you choose. Money and lifestyle issues must never be a primary motivating factor in your career choice because it will never give the rewards that made you decide to be a doctor in the first place. Robert Woolsey, M.D. ‘67
Motivation for studying medicine is key. Don't go into medicine for money or fame. If you don't like what you do and working with people it will be the wrong field to enter. If you want to help people and love challenge and learning the negative aspects will be less important. I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was 8 and I have never regretted my decision. Not that I don't get discouraged or frustrated, but it is what I like to do.Joy Ziemann, M.D. ‘74
I would tell students to make sure they have a balanced life --- work, family, fun and personal goals. Medicine is becoming a less driven field then in the past. You have to "love" what you do. If you LOVE what you do and understand what you are getting into, then balanced health care reform will not change your decision dramatically. Laurie Byrne, M.D. ‘95
NOTE: The views and opinions of the originators expressed above do not necessarily state or reflect those of Saint Louis University, the School of Medicine or entities thereof.
Dialogue with the Dean is a regular e-mail message sent from the dean to alumni. It provides alumni with an opportunity to share their comments about current heath care initiatives and/or topics related to the School of Medicine. If you are not receiving Dialogue with the Dean, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and request to be added to the mailing list.