The kids are back. Another academic year is beginning at U.Va. Suddenly the University grounds are full of young adults anxious to get rid of their parental chauffeurs/sherpas and get to the business at hand: meeting other young adults. I like this time of year in Charlottesville. Sure the traffic is a little worse and parking is tighter, but there is a palpable energy and excitement in the air.
I had the pleasure this year of teaching a brief introductory course to the incoming first-year medical school students, the class of 2022, on their very first day of medical school. The course is called Cells to Society, and it is designed to begin to show the fledgling doctors the overlap of science, social factors and physician behaviors that make up the best patient care.
The new students looked great, fit, tan, and well-rested. They were curious and enthusiastic and utterly lacking in guile or cynicism. I did not know what to say to them to prepare them for what they were going to face. They did not seem to care. Like the generations before them they would figure it out themselves.
I was tasked with showing them how the basic sciences they had studied in college translated into actual clinical care of patients. Together we interviewed a patient with diabetes. Mostly I just observed the students, who were deeply respectful of the patient and asked good questions for the most part. They were already figuring it out for themselves, and I felt little need to correct their early efforts. They are starting from a good place and this makes all the difference. They don’t need much guidance from me at this point. In the later years of medical school and residency, when patient care becomes the primary focus and quite frankly a primary stressor, I will have more guidance to offer them.
So early fall is an optimistic time throughout the medical school, the health system and the hospital. Everyone is starting something new and putting their best feet forward. In the ER we have fourth-year medical students from other medical schools doing one-month rotations with us. They want to secure residency spots here. We call these rotations “away auditions.” As you can imagine, the rotating students are eager to please. This cuts both ways. We faculty are anxious to recruit the best residents we can get, so we also try to appear welcoming and eager to teach them. It is sort of the ideal educational interaction with both sides so motivated, and it is fulfilling for me, and career prolonging. In fact one visiting student, a scribe for us in a previous life, extracted a promise from me not to retire until she had finished her residency should she match at U.Va. I wasn’t going to anyway, so it was an easy promise. It did make me wonder how old she thought I was, though.
Along those same lines, one of our new ER interns who I had just met introduced me to one of his patients on rounds.
“This is Dr. Reiser. He is one of our senior physicians.” Ouch.
Welcome back, kids!