Inside Doctoring: Stages and Outcomes in the Professional Development of Physicians

By Robert H. Coombs; D. Scott May et al. | Go to book overview

The Chief

Anonymous

The chief did homework with his oldest son every morning between 4 and 5 a.m. They would work together on trigonometry or biology--whatever the son was studying in high school. It had to be that early because it was the only time the chief had available. By 5:15 a.m. he would be smoking his seventh or eighth cigarette and brewing his second pot of coffee of the morning. Then he would prepare his morning lecture for the medicine house staff that began at 5:30 a.m.

I was not the best or most dedicated intern, and I seldom came to the lectures more than three times a week. The talks usually concerned cardiology, which was the chief's specialty. I am not particularly interested in cardiology, but it never occurred to me at the time because when he explained an ECG or an angiogram, I became interested.

The chief was thin and wiry. He had an intellectual intensity that was infectious, but, more important, he had an unaffected kindness and concern that won your loyalty. On rounds, he would converse for hours with unkempt old men who had been admitted to the hospital with atypical chest pain. The chief would have all the house staff bobbing to and from the patient's chest with their stethoscopes; the patient would be jumping like a hooked trout from the left lateral decubitus position onto his back and then to the sitting position as we all listened to his heart. The chief cared about these patients and their chest pains, even though most of the rest of us were bored by the long, complicated histories.

Often, late in the evening, the chief would pop his head into a patient's room and find me at the bedside of an acutely ill patient; he was always glad to see me there.

-88-

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