"The good physician treats the disease,
The great physician treats the patient who has the disease."
-Sir William Osler
I am now officially done with the 5th week of medical school (which means 5 more weeks until midterm week!) and as you may guess, it has been a busy 5 weeks. In just a little over a month, my class has learned about genetic diseases, the biochemistry involved in blood coagulation, what muscle tissue looks like, how to dissect cadavers, and so much more.
In addition to the science and more technical aspects of medicine, we have also been working on the more "humanistic" skills involved in medicine in a course called Essentials of Clinical Medicine (ECM). In ECM class we have discussed strategies for interacting with patients as well as practice on how to do medical interviews and physical exams. During week 3, we learned how to do physical exams on the upper extremities on fellow students and this past week we practiced conducting medical interviews and taking patient histories on a standardized patient or a trained actor who comes in with a hypothetical problem. Thus, it has been a very interesting experience being able to combine the material we learn in class to real-world applications. For example, in anatomy we learned about the muscles in the rotator cuff and we were able to apply the knowledge of what those muscles do during the physical exams. While conducting patient interviews, we had to recall different diseases and their symptoms and use that knowledge to guide the questions we asked during the interview. And in all honesty, it has been challenging.
Being able to integrate all of the information we have learned and to think quickly on our feet is a skill one must have. You must be able to draw upon your technical and medical knowledge while remembering that the patient is a person and not a disease. In ECM class we read about patient stories where physicians have focused too much on treating the disease and not making sure that rapport and partnership is established between the patient and doctor. Being able to treat the emotional needs and concerns of the patients is just as important as treating their physical ailments. A patient must be viewed as a person as a whole. Thus, there must be a fine balance that is struck between the more scientific and humanistic side of medicine and finding that balance is something that will take time and practice.