“How’s your career going, Dr. Reiser?”
That is kind of a fresh question coming from a medical student that I had just met, but I found the sheer effrontery of it amusing. I had been engaging a classroom of medical students in some banter while waiting for my lecture notes to boot up on a rather slow computer. I had asked them how their ER rotation was going, and after some awkward mumbling from the group, this is what Brittany countered with. Actually what she said was “How’s your um, day, um, shift, um, career going?”
I chose to take her question seriously and replied to her.
“Well, I saved two lives yesterday, so there’s that. I guess that’s something. So pretty good, I would say.”
The students looked at me skeptically, but it was actually true. But it was really beside the point; it was just the most immediate thing that jumped into my mind.
I had more time over the weekend to contemplate her question. On Friday I attended the retirement party of a prominent colleague at the Boars Head Inn. Dr. Marcus L. Martin is a man of many accomplishments, but at the end of his career what really had stayed with him as his best accomplishment were the ER residents he had trained over a long career. I was one of them, some thirty years ago in Pittsburgh.
We have maintained a friendship over those thirty years, and so he invited me to speak to the large crowd assembled for his retirement gala about those early days.
I told a few funny anecdotes of long ago pranks and parties and concluded with the lesson I took away from his long career of mentoring students and residents.
It was many years ago and I was complaining to him about a problem ER resident that I was training. This resident just didn’t get it. His medical knowledge was low, his procedural skills were poor and his social skills were nonexistent. The nurses complained about him constantly on every shift. Patients and families were frequently dissatisfied with his care and let me know it. I was considering the drastic step of recommending that we drop him from the program.
Dr. Martin shook his head slowly and told me, “You know, Rob, in my 17 years as a residency program director I never gave up on a resident.”
“And I never had one let me down,” he added.
So, Brittany, here’s how my career is going. Over these thirty years I have saved some lives, lost some lives, but I, too, have never given up on a resident or a student.
So, pretty good, I would say.