What Would You Tell Future Physicians?

Colin T. Son


June 30, 2009

The annual ritual of minting new physicians takes place across the United States July 1, as new graduates begin their internship year. (Think of the TV comedy Scrubs, but without so many daydreaming sequences or spontaneous musical numbers.)

Partly to commemorate the occasion, Dr. Edwin Leap is using his blog to explore the issue of how professional responsibility is taught in medicine. In fact, he has extended an open invitation to anyone who would like to address the question "What would you like to say to future physicians?" He plans to post a collection of responses on Tuesday, June 30, 2009.

Dr. Edwin Leap hosts Grand Rounds
June 30, 2009

Of course, Dr. Leap has his own opinions about the medical profession and its role in society. In a recent blog post entitled "I'm only a physician; who cares what I think?" he wrote about discussions at the federal level to improve healthcare and the fact that no one had solicited his input:

More and more, as the years slip by, I feel as if we physicians have surrendered our influence...

[T]he consensus is frequently that we really don't have the right perspective, that we're difficult, we're whiners, we need to just endure and deal with it all. The powers that influence systems walk through the department, shake their heads, take notes and move on...

I know it's true. Not only do I practice, I write a national column in Emergency Medicine News (www.em-news.com). People write to me. They tell me things. They take me aside at meetings and whisper the awful truths of what they face as struggling physicians. The way their viewpoints are considered moot because all they do is patient care. Because their honed skills as diagnosticians and proceduralists don't bear enough weight compared to the immense value of physicians, nurses and others with MBA's or positions of real authority.

What does it matter what I think? I'm only a physician. I'm only exhausted, trying shift after shift to do the right thing, to burrow my way through waves of patients, and argue my way through layers of consultants in order to accomplish what needs to be done...

We have sold our souls, or given them away, or had them ripped from us. We physicians have done a fantastic job of caring for the sick and dying; of focusing on the work at hand and our lives at home. But in the process, we have become cattle to be used; sheep to be shorn. We have become the unwitting bearers of a system grown so inefficient from the machinations of those distant from patient care that it will soon collapse, only to have the collapse blamed on us.

Although Dr. Leap frequently writes about physicians' place in society and their responsibilities, challenges, and rewards, he also covers a broad variety of other topics that touch on medicine, life, and faith. And his provocative writing often inspires readers to join in the ongoing discussion, such as this comment left by a fellow physician:

I love people, I love the magnificence of the human body and the life a soul gives it. I just hope that somehow the people under my care figure out I am no hero, just a consultant/adviser. Healing comes from within, from the divine design they walk around in.

On June 30, Dr. Leap will focus his efforts on Grand Rounds, the weekly collection of medical blog posts. This special theme edition will also include readers' advice for new physicians as well as Dr. Leap's own thoughts.


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