With their heavy academic workloads and the constant demand to keep up with the ever-growing body of medical literature, one might question whether medical students have time to learn and absorb the importance of developing the human connection vital to the doctor-patient relationship. Here’s something that provides strong evidence that they do: A group of fourth-year medical students here started a project to thank patients for being their most important teachers.
In today’s Inside Stanford Medicine, I write about the project, which featured 35 anonymous thank-you cards from medical students arranged into a display for the recent Medicine and the Muse Symposium. Some cards touch on life and death issues, some focus on the importance of hands-on medical training, and others express simple appreciation of the human bond. Reading over these heartfelt letters, it’s clear that the students recognize that the patient-doctor connection is key to their medical education. Here’s a sampling:
I will always remember that you asked me for an ice-cold Slurpee from 7-Eleven in broken words when you finally gained consciousness and spoke to me. I will never forget your gentle but firm nod expressing that you wouldn’t want artificial feedings prolonging your life… Taking care of patients like you and helping them in times of need makes medicine worthwhile… You taught me how to be a good physician and I will always remember you.”
Thank you to the patient with vasculitis and related short gut syndrome for sharing your physical pain as well as worried for the future with me. Thank you to the former physician with mental health concerns for teaching me humility. Thank you also to your families for teaching me about the impact of illness on your lives as well.
Thank you for reminding me why I chose to do medicine. For showing me that we can improve medical care further. For you and future patients.