why we care for others …

December 1, 2011

in KU Med School,Med Conf

… look for what is beautiful and true in our patients and families …

Aware of an increasing dissatisfaction in the medical field, due to a reduction of the caregiver-patient relationship to a sort of mechanism, we wanted to propose a medical care that is adequate for the person with all their needs.
I believe that this is a cultural problem that starts at the level of teaching in medical school. My personal experience, in almost 15 years of practice in the US, has been that medical schools in the US are extremely good in terms of scientific and technical preparation, but the consideration of the human needs of the patients is very often forgotten. A human approach to caring for a patient is not something that can be taught in lessons at school, rather, is a cultural approach that is communicated person to person at the bedside.
As part of my professional duties, as Assistant Professor at Columbia University, I have been meeting many pre-med college students and medical students. One thing that I observe very often is that, in response to the question “Why would you like to become a doctor?” they invariably motivate their desire to become medical professionals because of their interest in helping others. However, they lament very often, almost constantly, the coldness and the cynicism of many physicians while teaching at the bedside.
Therefore, I have been proposing to them, as I teach them in the neonatal intensive care unit, where I work, at Columbia University, to look for what is beautiful and true in their patients. As this approach greatly corresponds to them, several of these students have been in touch with me even when they move to other cities, during their medical school and then residency or fellowship.
At the same time, I had been discussing, around a coffee or a dinner table, with some friend physicians and nurses about this issue. The outcome of these meetings was very often the communication of beautiful experiences that some of us witnessed. If we look at our patient as a person, we could clearly identify moments of beauty, even within the drama of the situation.

Dr. Elvira Parravicini discussing the beginnings of the American Association of Medicine and the Person

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