This is an interesting dilemma, but honestly, I could use your help. A former neighbor (not a close friend, but a pleasant fellow whom I run into less than occasionally) rented a house to a medical student and his family. They seemed reliable enough, and signed a 4 year lease. Over time, the medical student and the landlord began to feud over who does what. Usually things like landscaping were at issue. Nothing unusual, and none of my business.
I knew the medical student with a passing nod, and towards the end of his schooling ran into him.
“Hey! Congratulations! You’re almost done – quite an accomplishment! Where are you going for your internship?”
I got a non-answer, which I took to mean “undecided,” “other factors at work here,” and did not pry further, just wished him good luck in his residency.
They moved, and soon afterward, I ran into the landlord and a friend who had just come from the house. The house was trashed and filthy, broken parts with duct tape all over, foul odor, hadn’t been cleaned in forever, destroyed carpeting from an elderly animal that used it instead of the backyard, broken blinds, and the tenant hadn’t paid rent in months. He left no forwarding address, and clearly not telling me where he matched was part of the subterfuge. No surprise the landlord had opened a legal case against the missing doctor.
It’s not my problem that he was a crummy tenant. But here’s the dilemma.
I feel responsible in a faculty preceptor sense on two levels. First, I have concerns about his quality as a physician based on his personal character. He may be perfectly competent, his skills may be appropriately honed, he may look good in a white coat, but who does that?
How do I explain to medical students and residents that you are a doctor 24/7 for the rest of your life? You are expected to comport yourself in a certain manner that shows respect for humanity, even if you are having a financial or legal dispute. You don’t get a break if you think your landlord cut you a raw deal. If you don’t like it, act civilized and get an attorney or make a complaint, but don’t play Animal House.
Which brings me to my second concern, probably more important than his housekeeping and his fiscal responsibility. Is he capable of being a doctor? Internship and residency are more grueling than any schooling or work leading up to it. If you can’t manage the stress of an overgrown lawn, what do you think is going to happen when you are standing up in morbidity and mortality rounds explaining an adverse outcome? How are you going to manage when you’ve been up all night on trauma call, have a full day of surgery and 30 patients to round on, you’re catching a cold, and the attending gets nasty because something wasn’t done?
Being professional and focused is not about you, it’s about the work you do, and all of the support staff and patients and families who rely upon you to give direction and compassion. And it extends into your community.
So I’m going to leave this one to you good people to give me advice. What would you do under these same circumstances?
Sara Stein is an integrative and bariatric psychiatrist and functional medicine physician at Stein Wellness Center and can be reached on Twitter and Facebook. She is the author of Obese from the Heart.