The Power of Listening: What I Learned From My Trip to Rwanda, Africa


I woke up abruptly from my jet-lagged sleep surrounded by a bed net, two fans, and the smell of the DEET bug spray I had applied before going to bed. One of my team members was knocking on the door, saying that a large group of women was already outside the hostel where we were staying and had been waiting for us to come out. I was surprised to find out they had been coming every morning, anticipating our arrival, but I also realized how different this place had already become in my mind.

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Four Ways to Practice Teaching as a Medical Student

During the first years of medical school, we are taught a huge volume of material, covering basic sciences and organ systems. It is not until our clinical rotations that we truly begin to experience medicine in real time. Over our clinical years, we learn how to become comfortable with patients and help them become comfortable with us. Ultimately, we hone our ability to communicate knowledge to our patients. In modern medicine, we work as a team with our patients toward improvement of their health. We are the scientific experts, but require the patient’s help to learn about their expertise: the patient’s own body. For a patient to make the best decisions, we need to effectively teach patients about their situation at a level where the patient can make an informed, proper decision. How can we practice our teaching skills as medical students?

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The Year of Privilege: A New Perspective on Third Year

During my pediatrics clerkship, one of our core faculty gave a lecture during orientation. This orientation lecture was particularly good, as the professor giving it was one of our most-loved faculty members who is deeply in tune with medical students at all stages. This was back in the summer when we were just getting started with our clinical experiences, but what he said stuck with me all year. He noted with a bit of humor that third-year medical students are the lowest of the low—barely even acknowledged by many team members, ignored by some patients who refuse to talk to anyone but a “real doctor,” disregarded by residents unless it is to point out something you are doing wrong. We chuckled, already able to relate with this view, but he turned the conventional description on its head by encouraging us to think of the third year of medical school as “the year of privilege.”

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Put Your Patients First When Choosing Clinical Attire

clinical attire

Dress like an intern, not a hipster, not an executive
When I was in first-year medicine I had my ears pierced and grew my hair out. I went to attend a surgery and showed up with my piercings in and my little ringlets popping out from beneath the surgical head mask. The consultant gave me a look of consternation, the same look you’d expect from your curmudgeon next-door neighbor who’s disgruntled at kids skateboarding outside his house. He said to me, “Those piercings you have there; that hair of yours; you don’t look like a med student. I’ll tell you what. If you go back to the locker room, take out those piercings, and tuck that hair into your cap, you can observe this surgery.” I acquiesced. But I hadn’t learned the lesson yet.

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The Power of the Patient-Doctor Bond: A Conversation with Michael Clearfield, DO

michael clearfield

Some people develop the passion for medicine at an early age. Michael Clearfield, DO, was not one of them – but once he did find that passion, he ran with it for miles.Although he’d been interested in science and math throughout college, and had a vague feeling that “something in healthcare would be something I’d be interested in,” it was ultimately a personal experience that cemented his future career goals. “Some personal issues happened in our family, where people got ill, and I was able to experience the healthcare team as it impacts you as an individual,” he told SDN at last year’s UC Davis Pre-Health Conference (UCDPHC15), where he delivered a keynote on opportunities in osteopathic medicine. “There were some very startling revelations to me; some positive, some negative – seeing how the system worked, and how it didn’t – and I decided that [medicine] would be a career that I would like to try and make a difference in.”

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What You Should Know: Lies in the Patient-Doctor Relationship

What You Should Know is an ongoing series covering a range of informational topics relevant to current and future healthcare professionals.
It happens to every medical student sooner or later – the realization that their patient has lied to them. Especially for students, who are just beginning to gain clinical experience, this realization can come as a shock. A sense of betrayal, anger or even the desire for retribution can set in, all of which can be damaging to the doctor-patient relationship.
These emotions aside, it might help student doctors dealing with the nature of this reality to understand where deception enters into the therapeutic relationship – as well as how and why people lie in a clinical setting and what the doctor can do about it.

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Judgment in Medicine

“Only God can judge me.” Tupac Shakur rapped these famous lyrics in his All Eyez on Me Album in 1996. Although this song stands far removed from the field of medicine, the statement “only God can judge me” is a reflection of one of our modern culture’s values: we simply do not like being judged.
This truth seems to resonate particularly in clinics and hospitals throughout the US. Physicians see patients of all different colors, shapes, and sizes and many of these patients enter into clinics with emotional wounds inflicted from previous physicians’ lack of judgmental tact. These patients have been negatively looked upon because of their skin color, weight, gender and countless other reasons resulting in an understandable defensiveness towards any medical professional. In addition, a fair number of patients, myself included, while not completely jaded, have had significant negative experiences with doctors. One of the most dangerous pathologies identified in a doctor’s office, ironically has nothing to do with actual “medicine”. What hurts the most is diagnosing the prejudice influencing our physicians’ health care.

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