EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

Academic Medicine, Teaching & Learning in Medicine: Announcing a New Series called Learning Medicine

It’s looking more like spring each morning in the Northeast, after a nasty late winter. There are daffodils poking out of the ground. The days are growing longer. This morning I saw a green bagel in the cafeteria because tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day*.

This makes it a good time to try something new on the blog. Today marks the first post in a series which I have titled Learning Medicine: Ten Questions.

The series is intended as an open dialog between current and former medical students, educators, clinical researchers, PBL facilitators, librarians (and anyone else I can rope into answering 10+ questions!). The content or questions in the interview may vary, depending on the background and professional experience of the interviewee.

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Today, please welcome esteemed veteran blogger and physician Graham Walker!

A Background Question – Who Are You?

Graham Walker describes himself in this way:

I’m a second-year Emergency Medicine resident at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital System in New York City. I was originally a medical school blogger (at the now-defunct Over  My Med Body! ) blog. Recently I’ve returned to blogging as a contributor to The Central Line, the official blog of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

My interests include: surviving residency, technology and web design, simulation medicine, informatics, health policy and caffeine highs.  I’m originally from Kansas, went to undergrad at Northwestern in Chicago, studying social policy/health policy, then went to Stanford for med school with a concentration in Community Health.

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Making the transition from undergraduate/or pre-med to graduate medical student

Can you name 4 or 5 key things that (in retrospect) you wished you had known before you began your first day of medical school?

Oh boy. Hopefully I can still remember anything about being a premed!  Here goes:

1) Know how you study, and develop good study skills in undergrad. Medical school is tough — they say it is like trying to drink water out of a firehose — so make sure that you’ve got a system in place to organize information in your head and commit it to memory.

For some people that’s flashcards, for others it’s study groups; for me, I *still* find I have to write things down in a notebook to get them to stick.

2) Know how you relax, and don’t give up doing that. For some people, that’s going to the gym. For others, that’s playing the guitar. Or doing a hobby. Or keeping in touch with your family. Medical school (and residency even more-so) requires copious coping mechanisms so have yours ready.

3) Get by with a little help from your friends. Don’t be a gunner in medical school. You’re in — You get to be a doctor — Yay!  Med school will be much easier if you work together with your classmates rather than view them as competition — *especially* once clinics start.

4) It is normal to feel overwhelmed. Accept it and embrace it, and it won’t be so stressful. There are parts of it that you’re going to hate, that are not going to be intuitive. But it will get better!

5) Try to get yourself all figured out. Know yourself by the time medical school starts, because while you’re in the thick of things, it’s easier to have as many of your own internal issues worked out before trying to ascend Mt. Medical School. “

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Being a Person AND a Medical Student

Please tell us about some moments in medical school or clerkship that:

Made You Angry: I remember two instances that made me upset: one was the way some OB-Gyn residents were talking disrespectfully about a terminal cancer patient. (I actually kind of understand their perspective as a resident now, but still don’t agree with it.)

The other was a grossly abnormal physical finding in a patient that I found that a group of residents chose to ignore, because I was a medical student. As the medical student, you are — more than anyone — your patient’s advocate. Know when to speak up.”

Made you wish you had Studied More: “ The Boards. But you always wish you could memorize more. Do your best, and move on “.

Brought Tears to your Eyes:  “ I remember it like it was yesterday. It was on my medicine rotation, one of the first patients that I really felt was “mine.” My residents let me “be in charge” as much as I could, and I fought for him to get a much-needed foot amputation. I was off or post-call one day, and I remember coming back the next morning and finding out he had died.

I wrote up the experience: Wonderful, Just Wonderful, Dr. Walker at: http://www.grahamazon.com/over/2006/02/wonderful-just-wonderful-dr-walker/ “.

Made you Roll on the Floor Laughing:  “ Slap-happy post-call. I’m known for being a little hyper and a bit of a morning person, which usually drives people crazy. Also any shift in the Emergency Department “.

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Learning Medicine, Becoming a Doctor. Empathy, gravitas, demeanor, honesty

Part A:  How does one learn to “act like a physician”?   (It’s not really in a textbook.)

I certainly steal bits and pieces from different mentors and heroes of mine. A phrase from this attending, a style from that one. Tips and tricks along the way.

There’s no one way to “act like a physician,” and often it changes for the situation and the patient. I’m a different type of doctor when I’m seeing an infant compared to when I’m evaluating a trauma patient or interviewing a 95 year-old. Being able to adapt and change: maybe that’s the ticket. ”

One area the third-year medical students are concerned with is effective communications with patients and their families when managing someone with a terminal illness, in palliative care or especially when attending unexpected deaths due to accidents, homicide, military, etc.

Part B:  How does a physician learn to “deliver bad news” to a patient or their family members?

Get at or below the patient or loved one’s level. Empathize. Speak in private. Speak their language, if you can. (Learn as many languages as you can.) Make eye contact. Be direct, calm, and compassionate. Tell them however they’re feeling or reacting is normal and okay: everyone reacts differently.

Be present in the moment.  This is one of the hardest things for me to do now, and I have to remind myself of it, especially in a busy emergency department. Don’t worry about what’s happening to the rest of the team, or the other patients, or the rest of the department. Just be there, if only for a few minutes.   Apply the Golden Rule “.

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Congratulations – You are now a resident!  Choosing a specialty.

Match Day is Thursday, March 18, 2010. Can you describe the process that allowed you to select a medical specialty (Emergency Medicine) and why?

Man, it’s hard to remember, because my view of the specialty has changed so much as a resident. I remember really connecting with the type of attendings and residents who went into Emergency Medicine.  My type of people, I guess.

They say it’s much easier to rule out specialties than rule any in, and that’s very true. I was the type of medical student who enjoyed most of my clerkships, but in the end, I chose the one that I thought I’d enjoy, be challenged by, and excel at. ”

What advice would you give fourth-year students as they learn their Match and prepare for residency?

Get excited, relax, and get scared. Residency is not anything like a harder version of medical school, like I imagined it to be.  Enjoy your last few free months. Travel. Get married. Spend time with the people who are important to you.

Do. NOT. Study. And most of all: learn Spanish “.

Do you ever get enough sleep?

Yes, I do. My program is pretty resident-friendly in that regard, and I think it makes us all better, happier, more efficient, and more compassionate doctors. It’s hard to go the extra mile (which is what you realize you have to do as a resident) when you’re exhausted and cranky. ”

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Since this blog is written to inform readers about health science literature, trends in medical or scholarly communications, effective search strategies and sources, the next question focuses on your experience in learning to effectively use health science literature, sources for evidence-based practice or anything digital.

Have your information needs and/or searching behavior(s) changed between medical school and residency?  Are mobile computing resources and technologies important to you?

Definitely.  In medical school it’s all about learning about the basics, and the basics of how you treat X.

In residency, it’s much more about management, when to use what, finesse, and pattern recognition. I think it’s different for every specialty, too.

Regarding searching for clinical evidence, which sources, journals or databases have you found most-useful in answering clinical or patient care questions over time?

Great question. If I’m going to anything, it’s usually either UpToDate or E-Medicine or straight to actual papers, via Pubmed.

I really like JAMA’s Rational Clinical Examination series, as well as BestBets, The TRIP Database, Cochrane Reviews, and often just… Google.  I also keep a private little blog of things I’ve learned and journal articles I want to hold onto for future reference.”

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What aspect of medicine/science digital communication and/or particular use of the Web for medicine or patient care interests you the most? (This is a completely open-ended question.)

I love Podcasts, Videos, Image Banks and clinically-useful blogs. It’s a whole other style of learning that helps you learn more when you’re tired of reading journal articles, review articles, or textbooks. ”

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Bonus Question: What question would you like to ask the readers? – or – What do you want medical students who read the EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC blog to learn from our interview?

I’d love to know how the students think medicine is going to change in their lifetime.

What do they think of the blurring of private/public life through [social media sites such as] Facebook?  Should we as doctors hide our private lives — that is, is it inappropriate for a patient to see a doctor, say, smoking or drinking on a site like Facebook?

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And that’s the first interview for Learning Medicine: Ten Questions series.  Special thanks again to Graham Walker for sharing his time, expertise, advice and experiences.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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4 responses to “Academic Medicine, Teaching & Learning in Medicine: Announcing a New Series called Learning Medicine

  1. TNM March 18, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    Awesome interview, both questions and responses! As an aspiring clinical librarian, Grey’s Anatomy freak, and lover of medical gore–can’t stomach slasher flicks but I’ll watch intestinal surgery while eating a bowl of corn flakes–I always wonder what it’s *really* like to be a medical professional. Reading Dr. Walker’s answers gave me that genuine ‘fly-on-the-wall’ perspective that is so rare…

    Looking forward to future interviews!

  2. Mark Rabnett March 18, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Very interesting interview. I used to read Dr. Walker’s student blog, so I’m glad to see all the hard work paid off for him.

    If it’s all right with you, I’d like to excerpt some of the comments for a brief library news item and link to your post.

    Excellent idea. I’m looking forward to seeing more interviews.

    Mark Rabnett
    Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library
    Winnipeg, Canada

  3. creaky March 18, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    Thanks, Mark. Please, be my guest and extract any parts of the interview that you wish. Graham did a great job at getting to the heart of the questions!

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Now, when I can’t sleep at night, my brain can work on formulating Ten New Questions to spring on people…. he he

  4. creaky March 18, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    Future med librarian, glad you enjoyed his interview. I think this series will turn out to be a lot of fun – for both interviewee and interviewer.

    Sometimes I sit in PBL and think about all the real-life medical scenario(s) that my fellow facilitator has witnessed in 22 years of being a critical care/emergency medicine specialist. Perhaps his professional experiences is one of the reasons why he is so calm all the time (as in: facing down life or death situations, u know?). Thanks for reading my blog.

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