An ode to great clinician-educators

When asked to describe my career, I consider myself primarily a clinician educator.  Recently I have reflected on the influences that allowed me to have a successful career doing what I love.  This post is not meant to mention all those influencers, but just some that I recall often.  As I have thought about this post, I quickly realized that all the “heroes” that I recall focused on clinical education.  Students and residents show great respect and love for the great clinician educators, while too often these same clinician educators get less respect from medical school administration.

When I started my third-year internal medicine rotation, I had no idea that I would become an internist.  That first rotation I had a resident who taught us to think.  He would present us patient cases to diagnose.  I fell in love with internal medicine that month.

Dr. Orhan Muren was a pulmonologist from Turkey.  He taught me enthusiasm as key feature of teaching.  He taught us acid-base (which to this day is a major teaching hobby).  As an intern in the ICU, he took me to the bedside and taught me the pulmonary physical examination.

Dr. Alvin Zfass is a gastroenterologist.  I always remember the day on rounds we had a slow team, so we spent an hour discussing pathophysiology.  That session taught me the value of explaining how basic science can help us understand disease, diagnosis, and treatment.

Dr. Kelley Skeff is world renowned for his work on teaching the teachers.  In 1990 I spent a month learning how to teach from him.  Before working with him, I was a pretty good clinician educator.  He provided a language to describe the teaching process.  He taught us a system for insight into our own teaching.  He continues to inspire.

Many students and residents have influenced me over the years.  At the end of each rotation, I ask them for feedback.  Specifically, I ask them what I did right, and what I should do better (or more).  Their feedback has influenced how I run rounds.

Many colleagues have and continue to influence me as a clinician educator.  Dr. Gustavo Heudebert is a clinician-educator extraordinaire.  Over the past 20+ years, we have given each other feedback after talks.  We have talked about patients.  We have discussed teaching style.  He has helped me continue to grow my craft.

I have left out too many influences.  Being a successful clinician educator does not occur in a vacuum.  Becoming an excellent clinician happens with exposure to great clinician educators.

How can we honor the many great clinician educators at every medical school and residency?  They rarely get recognition outside their institution, yet they are critical to developing the clinicians that we need.

Our role models deserve more respect then they often receive.  We need great clinician educators, and need to nurture and grow them.

Robert Centor is an internal medicine physician who blogs at DB’s Medical Rants.

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