We Are All Teachers — All the Time
We Are All Teachers — All the Time
By Allen Chiang, M.D.
I recently read a motivating editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association about an emergency room physician from Seattle who felt an inner compulsion to act, even while vacationing on a family ski trip. The doctor jumped in when total strangers suddenly began shouting for help for a stricken person needing CPR.
Inspiring Words from Emerson
Her heroic efforts were exemplary and compelling, but it was a quote at the end of the column that I found to be the most provoking. The quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson and read: "That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily but involuntarily."
Those words got me thinking about how it might apply to my current situation as an ophthalmologist-in-training. The first thing that came to mind was our ophthalmology clinic — how hectic and foreign it must seem to the medical students who rotate through on a weekly basis, especially with all of our acronyms and specialized gadgets. While I do make a concerted effort to stop and teach some important principles of ophthalmology or point out interesting exam findings, I must admit that at times when the clinic begins to boil over with groaning patients, the first thing I curtail is my teaching.
As a second-year, juggling the different duties of residency — being a student, teacher and a physician — has become a bit easier to handle in a more balanced manner. However there are still days when the presence of that extra person or two in the room peering over my shoulder feels more like a burden than an opportunity. Those who are in their first-year of ophthalmology training may feel even more at odds with their new teaching responsibilities, particularly as it is still early in the academic year. It can be tempting and quite easy to shirk the responsibility.
It Is Our Duty to Teach
I believe Emerson's words serve to remind us that at the core, regardless of our level of training or experience, we as ophthalmologists are physicians and surgeons who bear the title of M.D., which very literally defines us to be teachers of medicine.
Although our particular specialty pertains to the eye, the M.D. is like a second surname that ties us to our professional family. Consciously reminding ourselves of this fact will propel us to teach and to increasingly do so on an involuntary basis. Therefore, even a fresh first-year ophthalmology resident has much to offer, having earned an M.D. and completed a strenuous year of internship.
Finally, we should remember that we ourselves are the beneficiaries of a commitment to teaching made by our attendings and mentors.
Representing Our Specialty
While it is true that the majority of medical students who pass through the ophthalmology clinic will ultimately choose to pursue medical specialties other than ophthalmology, they will all become M.D.s and future colleagues. Some will call us for consultations, while others will send referrals, and still others may be ones whom we will call upon in collaboration for the care of our patients.
However transient or limited, our teaching and interactions with medical students will go with them throughout their professional careers, at the very least leaving them with an impression of the field of ophthalmology in general. So let us represent our specialty in the best light possible. Even if they do not remember any of the scientific or clinical details of ophthalmology, the extent to which we teach, as alluded to by Emerson, will be a sobering reflection of the degree to which we have embraced our professional identity.
A Lifelong Commitment
So regardless of your station in training or practice, I encourage you to uphold your M.D. and continue teaching throughout your career, whether it takes place in the clinic, in the operating room, through journal articles and research, or through presentations at national conferences. I believe doing so will both sustain the growth of our profession and yield a high level of personal satisfaction. OM
|Allen Chiang, M.D., is entering his second year of residency at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.|
Uday Devgan, M.D., F.A.C.S., is assistant clinical professor at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, acting chief of ophthalmology at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and serves as the faculty advisor for Dr Chiang. He can be contacted at (310) 208-3937, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.maloneyvision.com.
Ophthamology Management, Issue: December 2007