The Perpetual Student
I saw a recent review of favorite students in a newsletter. The article brought several “students” to mind. The first was Homer Flora, D.O. He was a fellow rural practitioner in Nowata, OK. Although he began practice in 1954, the year I was born, he was the most “modern” student that I knew. He was a master of the noon conference. He waited patiently through the presentation, then he asked questions at the cutting edge of his learning curve. He had two or three patients that he presented. By asserting himself he was able to better meet the needs of patients. It was also beneficial to him in that he needed less help with consultation and did a better job when consultation was needed.
The second student was John Pillow, M.D. While still a resident on call every third night, John moonlit in busy Emergency Rooms every third night as well. For many this was primarily a source of income, but for John, it was intellectual stimulation. The rigorous John Peter Smith training program was not enough for him. I was amazed to find that he kept a logbook of patient encounters. The puzzling patients especially fascinated him, those most of us would like to forget. He kept names and phone numbers and actually called to find out what was really going on. Some of the most challenging were the teenagers. When he called back, he found out that several were adolescents at menarche, presenting to the ER just prior to first menses. Only one other learner that I have ever met did so much to identify and address personal medical weaknesses.
The final student I just met briefly at the Rosebud Indian Reservation. She was a black physician assistant student on rotation for a few months. An older pediatrician spontaneously commented on her ability to get beneath the surface to the real issues facing native patients. In discussions with her later, she had the ability to dissect the system as well. Getting information out of proud, quiet natives and entrenched bureaucrats is a challenge for anyone, yet she was a master at being inquisitive without inhibiting the flow of information.
The abilities of these folks had very little to do with their education. It had everything to do with minute to minute application of learning to daily life.
Heroes in Medicine