Patients Can be the Best Teachers

In medical school, I was often faced with complex patients and difficult diagnoses. One of my favorite mentors passed along a great piece of advice to get me through some of these challenges. He said, “If you ever have a problem figuring out what is wrong with a patient, just ask them.” As the years pass, this statement rings evermore true.

Yes, physicians have become increasingly guilty of depending on diagnostic testing when the patient holds the answer to the diagnosis. But my patients provide education far beyond my little world of medicine. Those countless conversations – or “mini-lectures” – have given me a depth of knowledge beyond what is taught in a classroom.

Being so specialized, I am often asked if I am ever bored doing the same thing everyday. The answer is that every day is very different. Every conversation is different. As a result, I have learned so much about art, geography, music, politics, history, business, and many other topics. It would be great if I could learn a foreign language just as easily.