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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Building Better Doctors

A 45 year old gentleman sits on the examination table.  He has come to his physician with a complaint of "chest pain."  Through careful probing, the doctor, a young woman with straight long dark hair, horn rimmed glasses and a long white coat, discerns that the man awoke with this pain after falling the evening before.

"What were you doing," she asks.
"Well, I was just crossing this parking lot, and looking over my shoulder, and I guess I fell over this parking know, the concrete thing..."
"Where were you coming from," she persists.
"What kind of place is that?"
"Oh, it's a bar."

By the end of a short interview, this skillful clinician has done more than could be accomplished with a battery of lab tests or a CAT scan:  she has discerned that what started out as a visit for "chest pain" is really about an individual who drinks in the morning, has had previous alcohol-related injuries and is on the outs with his wife over his addiction.

The really remarkable thing about this clinical encounter:  the man is not a patient; he is an actor, otherwise known as a "Standardized Patient." And the talented "doctor" isn't a doctor, at least not yet.  Instead this remarkably able clinician is just twelve weeks into her first year at the new Hofstra - North Shore LIJ School of Medicine.

As a matter of disclosure, I am a proud member of the faculty at the School of Medicine, which is founded on principles of humanism, patient-centeredness, and lifelong professional growth, all promoted in a learner-driven environment of collaborative discovery.  The goal is to mint the kind of physicians we all want taking care of our loved ones and, when the time comes, ourselves.  In future posts I'll tell you more surprising things about what's happening at the SOM.

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