May 22, 2007


Every subunit in our curriculum, we are randomly assigned a new preceptor who we visit in the hospital, to learn more about the subject at hand. Currently, we are in the hematology unit, learning about blood diseases -- and I hear stories about other groups who visit the pathologists in hospitals to read blood smears, learn about leukemia and all sorts of cool things.

What did my group have to look forward to for these past few weeks?

Lets see... we visited two patients who had lung cancer. Another patient who had colon cancer. Another patient who had carcinoid syndrome (which is actually quite interesting in terms of manifestation of cancer.) So yes, there was a lot of cancer. It can be a sobering and sad subject, especially when we reach that awkward point in the Q&A when the patient probes us about what they think the future will hold. Hoo boy... that's rough.

Soured by this experience, I found myself complaining today about how our preceptor is a "fallback" guy. Basically, my theory was that if the school couldn't find enough doctors, they picked him up since he was in previous units as well.

In retrospect, those were harsh words. As I printed out my history and physical write-up to present to my preceptor tomorrow, it came out upside down on the back page. I saw the scenario unfolding in my mind -- he carefully reads the page, much to my surprise and flips it over, remarking that the back page is upside down. In my mind's eye, I had two different replies:
Honestly, I thought you weren't even going to read it.
Sorry, I had trouble figuring out the instructions for backside printing at school. You'd think by now I'd get the hang of it, by now...
The first one shocked me. I couldn't believe that I'd think of saying that to a doctor! Did I really have that little respect for him? He's not a bad doctor; he's just very dull. And to top it off, he doesn't have any patients relevant to the topics we are learning about.

Sometimes it can be difficult to muster up gratitude. He does deserve it though. I imagine that he doesn't get the best treatment from medical students, even though he went out of his way and volunteered to help teach us about hematology when no one else would. I'm glad that he let us visit the blood bank to learn about their lab procedures and techniques last week.

We've had opportunities to shadow doctors, who all have different styles for teaching and presenting. I don't know how he responds to feedback, but I hope that our suggestions are met with gratitude. In much the same way that he's helped us to learn, I hope we can help him teach future students.

I spoke too soon. We had an excellent session today with him -- and we had the opportunity to meet with an elderly gentleman who had the misfortune of being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. It was a good learning experience for us, it was something heme-related and much to our surprise and joy, we got out early!

[edit #2]
Upon further consideration, I recall my mother used to tell me when I was young: "complaining about something being boring just means you're not thinking enough to make it interesting." I started asking more questions and getting more engaged in my preceptorship and this attitude shift really paid off. I felt as though I made a good connection with the doctor and I learned a lot.

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