My pediatrician inspired me to become a physician

I recently learned the sorry news that my childhood pediatrician has died. Not only was he my pediatrician, but he was also my father’s pediatrician. Our family became rather close to him over the years.

He came from a different generation of doctors, one that made house calls, that served in wars abroad, and that learned how to diagnose patients in the days before MRIs and CT scans. Even though I was little while I was his patient, I clearly remember how much he relied upon the physical examination and upon instruments like the reflex hammer and the tuning fork that few doctors carry today.

Most striking was his unwavering dedication to his patients. Although today’s aspiring physicians (myself included) seek “work/life balance,” his work pretty much was his life. Even on weekends and nights, he was working tirelessly for his patients, visiting his charges at home and in the hospital. To him, medicine was not a job, but truly a calling. Although old age forced him to give up his practice, it did not seem like he ever retired. I saw him frequently at the medical school’s weekly pediatrics grand rounds, always sitting in the front row.

He was one of my main inspirations for wanting to become a physician. I grew up feeling indebted to him for having looked after me with such care, and it saddens me considerably for him to be gone. I hope to live up to his example, although I doubt I will come close to emulating his commitment to this profession. As my father remarked, “they don’t make doctors like him anymore.”

Although this past year of medical school, my first, has better acquainted me with illness and death, it hasn’t taken any of the sting out of the loss of a loved one. Entering medicine has eased, though, the inevitable soul-searching that accompanies such sad news. In mourning, I ask myself, what is my purpose here on earth? How will I leave my mark? How can I best honor the memory of the deceased? It was my pediatrician who had first offered me some of the answers. Medicine can be a noble line of work, and by taking it seriously I hope to repay my debt to him and my obligation to humanity.

“Reflex Hammer” is a medical student who blogs at The Reflex Hammer.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3CY2U67646G7UIAHBQVTT2UP4Y Kristy S

    What an amazing article.  Thank you for sharing it with us, and I wish you all the best as you continue on your journey to be coming a doctor.

  • janiceamancuso

    Wonderful essay… Your tribute to your pediatrician reminded me of mine, Dr. Bush. He was a quintessential doctor and has inspired me all the years I’ve worked planning and developing medical conferences. I wrote the following (part of the story) when we launched The Osler Symposia in 2011:
    “I grew up in the age of Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, and later Marcus Welby, but before them my favorite doctor was Fred Bush, MD, my pediatrician who cared for me until I left for college. Dr. Bush made house calls. Mrs. Bush was his nurse. I hated shots and would hide under the exam table when it was time for vaccinations. He understood and would patiently coax me out. Mrs. Bush always gave me a lollipop anyway. Dr. Bush was kind and gentle and we always felt better after seeing him.”The idea for this physician wellness conference moved from the back burner to the slow-cooker by the time my 82 year old father passed away in 1992. But events surrounding that loss reinforced my desire to develop “the conference” (as my family and friends have come to know the object of my affection) because I was more concerned than ever that physicians as a group were not that well.My father’s primary care doctor had been his physician for 15 years. They had a long-term relationship. At the time, it never would have occurred to me that he wouldn’t, at some point, call my mother following my father’s passing in the wee hours of the morning to offer his condolences, or to simply say something – anything. Surprisingly, when Dr. Bush (92 at the time) saw my father’s obituary, he called my mother to acknowledge my dad’s death. Mind you, my father was a cab driver, not a prominent person outside of our family, and Dr. Bush had not been our family’s doctor for over 20 years. But he remembered the relationship. He was a good doctor indeed.”Reflex Hammer, I hope you never lose your high-minded ideals and your place on the continuum of your noble profession.janicewww.OslerSymposia.org

  • Ham Let

    My pediatrician growing up had also taken care of my MOTHER.  Dr. Shein was just unlike most doctors I’ve seen or met since. He also inspired me to become a doctor!

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