Teaching by example

By Richard P. Holm, MD

By Richard P. Holm, MD
This ancient wisdom rings so true, “You only teach by example.”
We all have mentors in our lives – people who serve as examples, those whose patterns of living teach us how to face challenges. Of course most of us start out with our parents as mentors, and then look to other relatives, teachers, partners and heroes in stories worth imitating.
Even before my medical training, I watched our family physician, Dr. Bob Bell, from DeSmet. I remember how his interests outside of medicine were very broad, including hunting and fishing, water skiing, sailing, playing cards, singing in the choir, enjoying art, and the list goes on.
Dr. Bell and his wife, Phyllis, gave me the sense of how a superb physician family can enjoy and savor every moment of life.
I watched Dr. Karl Wegner a pathologist, lecturer and the first dean of our South Dakota medical school, whose method of teaching was with empathy. I remember how he made every one of his students feel like he was speaking directly to him or her. Dr. Wegner gave me a sense of how a superb physician values the other guy.
I watched Dr. Joe Hardison, an Internist at the VA hospital in Decatur, Ga., whose diagnostic acumen and skills were famous among residents.
I remember how he cleverly examined and listened to subtle clues to make the diagnosis. Dr. Hardison gave me a sense of how a superb physician uses her or his senses and brain to make a diagnosis.
I watched Dr. Keller, a cancer specialist at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, whose caring way remarkably helped cancer patients deal and cope with very ominous conditions. I remember how he confidently listened and spoke with consoling words and eyes to those with widely spread cancer. Dr. Keller gave me a sense of how a superb physician with compassion for suffering patients gives relief, and exemplifies medical ethics in action.
And I am still watching Dr. Bob Talley, a cardiologist and former dean of USD Sanford School of Medicine, whose concern for students and residents elevated our med school into the highest level of training in this country. A specific example is how he helped mold a new method of integrated training in South Dakota about which Harvard has copied, and into which the rest of the country is evolving. Dr. Tally gives me a sense of how a superb physician, who concentrates with all his soul on helping young physicians learn, can result in repercussions of caring, caring provided by his students for countless numbers of people throughout the world.
We only learn from and teach by example.

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