(November 2016) At the 2016 matriculation ceremony this summer for new MD students at
the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Shanta Zimmer, MD,
associate dean for diversity and inclusion, delivered a thoughtful
keynote address to the class of 184 students.
“We all go into
professions for many reasons: money, status, security,” Shanta quoted
from an essay by New York Times columnist David Brooks. “But some people
have experiences that turn a career into a calling. These experiences
quiet the self. All that matters is living up the standard of excellence
inherent to their craft.”
She urged the class of 2020 to find the
“call within the calling” and reminded them to put people first. “Know
your patients as people,” Shanta said. “The rewards will be great.”
with everything else we learn to become physicians, physician
assistants, physical therapists and medical scientists, one of the most
critical skills we need is the ability to listen. Listening to patients’
stories and learning about their values helps us help them. When
patients are making difficult decisions about their health, when
colleagues are struggling with career choices, when friends need help,
listening is an essential first step.
Often we physicians are not
very good at letting patients talk. Based on some studies, on average,
we interrupt a patient somewhere between 12 to 18 seconds into the
medical history. We need to be better than average. The most important
organ we have is our ears. One of the richest joys of practicing
medicine is interacting with people and hearing their stories.
This issue of CU Medicine Today features some examples of how important it is to know the person, not just the patient.
Cauley is a young woman with cerebral palsy with a lifelong dream of
dancing competitively. Scientists on our faculty have been working with
Sarah and others like her to get a better understanding of the
transition to adulthood for people with cerebral palsy.
is an accomplished chef and restaurateur who suffered a paralyzing
stroke and has been battling to regain his mobility in order to walk his
daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Physicians on our faculty
have offered him excellent care and friendship.
Jr., was eight years old when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis,
facing a life-limiting diagnosis. After enrolling in a clinical trial
led by one of our faculty members, William’s quality of life improved
dramatically and he has recently completed medical school, inspired by
the care he received from Frank Accurso, MD, professor of pediatrics,
who retired this year from our faculty after 42 years of service.
Shanta’s address at the matriculation ceremony, she told the students
that there would be challenges ahead. There always are. She urged them
to distinguish themselves by finding ways to address the concerns and
keep moving on. For Shanta, inspiration comes from her patients.
answer was that when I think the setbacks I’m facing might be
challenging or insurmountable, I do what we doctors do,” she said. “I
lean into the greatest driving force we can imagine. I flee to the
bedside of my patients and listen to the stories they tell me about
their lives, their accomplishments, their hopes and their legacies.”
They are all the inspiration we need.
With warm regards,
John J. Reilly, Jr., MDRichard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Dean, School of Medicine Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs University of Colorado