Recently, I had the great pleasure of working with a specialist. While I found him to be an excellent doctor and teacher of his field, he impressed me more with his mastery of the art of medicine.
Watching him work reminded me of the heart it takes to work with patients.
After spending a morning with him, I can honestly say without hesitation: I have never been more inspired about medicine.
There was nothing complicated or mysterious about his interactions with patients. There was no parlour tricks or unnatural question structure. It was just him, his patient, and the problem. His language was simple, his examples relevant, and his explanations honest.
We often talk about empathy as a tool to help us connect to a patient. In my hands, it is an embarrassingly clunky, yet unrefined hammer of “it must be frustrating,” or that “I see you are upset.” His was the precision cut scalpel that sliced to the core issues and emotions.
Patients simply opened up to and connected with him. And I, sitting in my seat, even felt the transference of emotions at times as well. It was a powerful and beautiful display of the art of medicine at work.
To his patients, it was an overwhelming sense of feeling human in the eyes of a stranger, to not feel like a bag of meat at the mercy of a probe and a blade. To him, it was just the way medicine had always been and would continue to be.
For me, it was the revelation of what it is to truly practice great medicine.
A well person is a patient who has not been completely worked up.
A resident’s answer to the question: what is a well person?
Clifton K. Meador, MD. The Last Well Person. New England Journal of Medicine 1994, 330(6): 440
My tumor is situated in the pelvic girdle inside the bone and growing out into the pelvis, and I find it difficult to imagine what it really looks like. I feel that it is an uninvited guest in my body and when I started this cytotoxic treatment I thought: Now this is for you.