Thanks for Our Doctors
One of the more rewarding parts of my job is co-leading a monthly meeting for our first year clinical Hem/Onc Fellows. As many of you know, Fellows are doctors who have completed their medicine residencies and could begin to practice as internal medicine doctors/internists/PCPs. In order to become a specialist (in oncology or cardiology or any number of other things), they are required to spend another 3-4 years in a Fellowship. In Hematology/Oncology, this generally means one year working full time with patients (as a clinician) and a few more years working both as a clinician and as a researcher/scientist in a lab.
For many years, our first year fellows have attended this meeting which is called "The Art of Oncology." My own title is: "Everything You Need to Know about Being an Oncologist except the Medicine." Over the course of the year, we talk about children's issues when a parent is ill, delivering bad news, spirituality, issues around intimacy, etc. We also invite patients to come to one or two sessions to speak honestly about their cancer experiences. Inevitably, patients end up talking about their relationships with their physicians.
I think it is almost always a surprise to these young doctors to be reminded how very important their words and actions are. We listen to what they say, but also respond to their moods and delivery. We go home and ruminate about these conversations, and we can be quick to misinterpret or exaggerate what we have heard. The most important thing, all of these patients say, is that our doctors remember that we are people with lives outside of the illness.
We had such a meeting this week, and I am sharing a note sent by one of the guest patients afterwards:
Dear Hester, Thank you for your invite to try and explain how important it is to listen and follow up to your fellows. That crack we fall into can get really wide really fast. However, I did not have a chance to express how much we appreciate all they do, and how noble this career choice is. Their words are so powerful and can empower a patient to succeed ….when they might not be at their best and need to hear this most. It is so important that they believe in this patient and show that their compassion and understanding for these patients and what they are enduring truly genuine. This is what will set them apart, to always remember that this person is more that a patient and is trying to not just survive but to live their best life. Please thank everyone for their time and thank them for choosing oncology for all of our sake. It is Always a pleasure,