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Words of Support from SKMC Faculty


On Medicine: Reflections and Advice from Medical School Faculty

We asked SKMC faculty to describe a time in their career as a teacher, clinician, or Jefferson community member when they felt their deepest values were honored through their work. We wondered what situation allowed those values to be expressed.

Some of their answers are below.

Almost every day I feel that my work actively allows me to honor my values. As a geriatrician working at Jefferson for over 25 years, I have the humbling opportunity to share in the joys and sorrows of my patients every day. As an educator, I get to share the privilege of long-term patient relationships with our students and residents, and watch them develop their own expertise as physicians. As a leader in our department, I get to work with talented and dedicated individuals from across our organization to expand the positive impact we have on the health of individuals, families, and the communities we serve. It is truly a privilege and a joy every day.
Almost every day I feel that my work actively allows me to honor my values. As a geriatrician working at Jefferson for over 25 years, I have the humbling opportunity to share in the joys and sorrows of my patients every day. As an educator, I get to share the privilege of long-term patient relationships with our students and residents, and watch them develop their own expertise as physicians. As a leader in our department, I get to work with talented and dedicated individuals from across our organization to expand the positive impact we have on the health of individuals, families, and the communities we serve. It is truly a privilege and a joy every day.
Christine Arenson, MD, Professor  of Family and Community Medicine   

Without doubt, the most gratifying part of my academic career in medicine is the interaction with medical students, interns, residents, and fellows.  I am honored to have the responsibility of teaching electrocardiography to the medical students, and ECGs have always been a passion for me.  To explain the incredible wealth of information available from the humble ECG to sharp, inquisitive minds, and to watch the “ah-ha” moments occur when an explanation makes sense, is one of the most gratifying moments imaginable.

Furthermore, these same students are involved in clinical research, and the enthusiasm and energy they bring are remarkable and invigorate me.  Bringing the project to fruition and achieving a peer-reviewed manuscript is a tremendously rewarding project.  Steering students in these direction is so worth the effort, and it always gets better.
Behzad Pavri, MD, Professor of Medicine, Director of CCEP Fellowship 

My deepest sense of validation is when a former trainee, whether they are a student, resident, or fellow, becomes a valued clinical colleague.
Steven Herrine, MD, Professor of Medicine, Vice Dean, UME 

I was recently honored by the medicine house staff with a teaching award for teaching the value of humanistic care to the residents and interns.  You don’t realize that as soon as you get out of the world of medical school and residency and are  ‘on  your own’ that you no longer get required feedback about what you are doing - if you are doing  it well or not so well.  So this award really validated for  me that I have in fact been able to help impart some aspect of the importance of humanistic care for patients to young learners.  As a palliative care physician, one of my main joys is helping students, trainees and practicing physicians look at the whole person and not get narrowly  focused on a specific organ system or ‘problem’.    
Brooke Worster, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine 

There comes a time in every good physician’s career when you go to the hospital to visit a patient, and they are so glad to see you—everything is all right because their doctor is there.  People trust you with their lives, and just being there with them along the way means more to them than anything.  Even if you cannot cure their disease, sometimes even if you hurt them, if they know you care about them, people will see you as their friend and counselor.  There is no greater feeling than that. 
Allison Zibelli, MD, Assistant Professor  

Eight years ago, I was faced with a relatively frail patient who was dying of heart failure. We evaluated her for advanced therapies, but were somewhat pessimistic about her options given her age and overall condition. We decided to place a ventricular assist device in her, and she exceeded all expectations. There have been a few bumps in the road along the way, but she is still alive and living as if she had a normal heart. Every time I think back to that time, I am grateful that we took the chance to give her back a normal life. Being at a place like Jefferson can give you those opportunities to change someone's life.
John Entwistle, MD, PhD,  Associate Professor of Surgery

When I have end of life discussions with family members and how grateful they are for the way I conducted the talk is very meaningful to me Afterward when their family members  come up to me and thank me for all I have done, I know I am making a meaningful difference in their lives.
Anonymous Faculty Member

I like being a mentor. Seeing students excel beyond my level motivates me.
Nicole Piela, MD,  Emergency Medicine - Medical education fellowship  

1. Being asked by TJU physicians and nurses to take care of them and their family members in the OR and ICU.

2. After giving a lecture at a large medical conference and during the Q&A session, a physician in the audience went up to a microphone and stated...... that I taught him  how to read a chest x-ray when I was an intern and he was a medical student.....and now he is the chairman of radiology department at a prestigious medical college.

3. Every day mentoring medical students and residents.
Jeffrey I. Joseph, DO, Vice-Chairman and Director of Research, Department of Anesthesiology  

I have only been at Jefferson for 8 months. I feel like my deepest values have been most honored through the engagement I have had on the sepsis committee, trying to improve outcomes for patients with critical infections.
David Gaieski, MD, Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine

I was moved when the medical students from SKMC honored me when they asked me to be their faculty mentor for the Physician Executive Leadership Group.  I have a passion for working with medical students to prepare them for their professional careers.  I value the fact that PEL is a student led and student centered club.  The students are bringing in excellent speakers who discuss innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and health care delivery.  I am so pleased to be working with this group of students.
Paul Rosen, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics 

Do you consider your role at Jefferson a calling? Was there an experience you had at work or in training that allowed you to realize your vocation held personal meaning?

Any work with individuals at time of need and sometimes extremis, can qualify as a calling. It becomes a calling, in my view, when one accepts and internalizes that responsibility. As hard as this work is, we are fortunate to be able to pursue such a calling. 
Steven Herrine, MD, Professor of Medicine, Vice Dean, UME

My ongoing feeling is that being a physician is far more than a job. There are so many options, so many interesting and emotionally rewarding opportunities.  I really enjoy coming to work each day. The challenges are endless and afford continued personal and professional growth. I never get  bored.  Over the years I have found myself repeatedly saying: “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”  Feel lucky that you have the honor of caring for others and being a part of something important.  When I began to realize that I could make the road a cancer patient had to travel better even though I did not have a cure, it was at that point that it became clear that this is far more than a job. 
Andrew Chapman, MD, Attending Physician

Every once in a while I feel like “chucking it all in”; then I think of the patients I would leave behind and realize that I have to be there for them.  I have had patients beg me to never retire—what other profession do you get that kind of appreciation from?  Even though I am an oncologist, I laugh more with my patients than I cry....this is the greatest job in the world (most days!)
Allison Zibelli, MD, Assistant Professor   

More importantly are the successes - those trainees that go on to the next phase in their career ready to take on the world. It makes me immensely proud to see how they have developed and to watch them succeed on their own. This is probably more meaningful to me than most other aspects of my practice - a successful case has helped one patient but a successful trainee helps patients for years to come.
John Entwistle, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery

I chose my career because I truly enjoy academic cardiac surgery. It combines several features that are important to me - working with my hands, challenging my skills as a clinician, providing relative instant gratification (the outcome for a surgical patient is usually evident within hours to days rather than months to years), and working with the next generation of surgeons to try to get them ready. There are two aspects of my role as a teacher that have helped me to appreciate my position more than if I were working outside of a teaching environment.

The first is the failures - there have been several residents and fellows over the years whom I could see did not have what it takes to be a cardiac surgeon. They did not have the manual dexterity, the dedication, or attention to detail to be successful in this field. Working with these trainees can be frustrating as you try to figure out which ones can be brought up to expectations or if they need to be redirected towards another career. It has given me appreciation for the work that others did ahead of me to make sure that I was prepared to practice cardiac surgery independently

More important are the successes - those trainees that go on to the next phase in their career ready to take on the world. It makes me immensely proud to see how they have developed and to watch them succeed on their own. This is probably more meaningful to me than most other aspects of my practice - a successful case has helped one patient but a successful trainee helps patients for years to come.
John Entwistle, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery

I consider working with critically ill sepsis and post-arrest patients a calling and feel inspired by the opportunity to research these disease states and improve clinical care for disease states that were once thought to be “a death sentence.” 
David Gaieski, MD, Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine 

I am hoping to pursue a path of lifelong learning.  Because of Jefferson's history, alumni, faculty, and leadership, I feel that being a part of Jefferson is facilitating my ongoing learning.  Through Jefferson, I have been able to meet students and faculty from other great Philadelphia institutions, such as Wharton, Drexel, Philadelphia University, and others.  Philadelphia is a hub of innovation in health care and being connected to Jefferson enables one to take full advantage of these relationships.
Paul Rosen, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics 

Is there a message of hope you wish you had heard while you were in training or medical school? What wisdom would you offer yourself or current students looking back?

It’s really hard sometimes, but your patients need you to know as much as you can so that you can help them when they need you. Don’t view medical school as a competition against one another:, view it as a competition against disease- you need to be ready!!

When you are learning the brachial plexus you may think it is irrelevant to your future career as a Dermatologist but it won’t be irrelevant when you fall in love with Family Medicine or Orthopedics as a third year. Learn it all!! Enjoy this time of learning. I wouldn’t take the tests again (yuck) but I’d love to go to medical school again just to have the dedicated time for learning and studying.  
Anonymous Faculty Member

You will make it through, no matter what.  And most importantly, don’t feel scared to ask a question, admit that you don’t know or to reach out to anyone who seems like they may be able to help guide you in some way.  You can make your career path look however you want it to  - just don’t be scared to ask for help.  Every single one of us was in those same shoes at some point!
Brooke Worster, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine 

Despite the heavy burden of quantity and complexity of medical science that you will need to learn, recognize that at times your will encounter what appear to be insurmountable problems.  Do not hesitate to ask your teachers for explanations and guidance in solving these problems!  As high achievers in your past educational years, there is a tendency, driven by pride and/or ego, not to ask.   Your teachers are the messengers of science and we, too, are its students.  There is no such thing as a "stupid" question; rather, not asking and moving forward, is not smart.
Marion J. Siegman, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics

1. Enjoy your life......time goes by too quickly.

2. Pick a specialty that you enjoy.
Jeffrey I. Joseph, DO, Vice-Chairman and Director of Research, Department of Anesthesiology 

As I transitioned from private practice to department faculty, I immediately received the support of the department chairman in developing a division to support general oncologists devoted primarily to the highest quality of patient care.  As part of my responsibilities, I sat on a board to hire a potential director of outpatient services.  Completely by chance, one of the candidates mentioned an interest in geriatric oncology which was foreign to me.  I was so intrigued that I began to explore the literature only to discover a subspecialty of oncology early in its development, not represented in our cancer center.  Quickly I developed a passion for this field. This was born out of my frustration after  years of caring for elders in the north east part of the city where I frequently felt the job wasn’t done as well as it should have been. In times of great change there are huge opportunities.  Be honest with yourself, follow your passion and good things will happen.
Andrew Chapman, DO, Attending Physician  

It was slow in coming-it wasn't a burst of realization or an epiphany, but more like a slowly building crescendo.  The more I do what I do (translational research), the more I find it to be the thing I was meant to do, the thing that I was put into the world to do.  I cannot think of another career that would give me more satisfaction or comfort than doing this job.
Scott Waldman, MD, PhD, Chair of Pharmacology

I used to obsess about grades and what residency I would get into.  Looking back, I see that all of that is meaningless.  You have to learn the material, but trying to be perfect is just going to make you miserable.  Medical school is a fascinating introduction to a new world; try to enjoy it along the way!
Allison Zibelli, MD, Assistant Professor   

Never forget why you entered medicine in the first place. We are lucky and privileged to have the honor of having people trusting their health to us. Always be grateful that you are on this side of the bed rather than the other side.
Anonymous Faculty Member 

When I was a medicine resident at Penn, I had one professor, who was the best bedside diagnostician I have met, who frequently used to say before we went to see patients, “Let’s see what we can learn from this patient.” He meant it from a physical exam perspective, a diagnostic perspective and a human perspective—and what we learned was sometimes the subtleties of aortic stenosis murmurs, sometimes the myriad ways lupus can present, and sometimes the secrets about growing roses in West Philadelphia. I have tried to keep this lesson close to my heart and approach each patient from that perspective.
David Gaieski, MD, Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine

This may sound trite, but our professional careers (generally) are long, and this is not a sprint but a marathon.  The challenges that we face professionally (and personally) are inevitable, but they are almost always transient and impermanent.  Indeed, those challenges are unique opportunities to develop skills that, ultimately, overcome adversity.  In that context, without these challenges, we would never have an opportunity to demonstrate to the world (and ourselves) what we are made of.
Scott Waldman, MD, PhD, Chair of Pharmacology 

Training can be a long process. However, if it gets you to where you want to be, it will all be worth it. I finished my training 11 years after graduation from medical school, and was able to start practice at age 37. I know that I could have been out sooner by choosing a different path, but I enjoy what I do, and appreciate the time and effort that it took me to get here. If there is something you really want to do, take the time to get there because you will enjoy the rest of your professional life more, and you are likely to be practicing in that field for many, many more years than you spend trying to get there.
John Entwistle, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery

When I think about all the mentors and role models I have had over the course of medical school, residency, and fellowship, I think the main “take home” message is to follow your passion.  The changing health care landscape makes it easy to get distracted from what really matters.   Understanding what you are passionate about and following that to wherever it leads is the best advice I have heard.
Paul Rosen, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics