I truly believe that every physician goes into medicine to help others. We may be a little competitive and egotistical sometimes, but in general, we are empaths and do-gooders. We believe in the magic of human kindness, and we strive to help our patients navigate the confusing and sometimes heartbreaking world of medicine.
Each day in medicine is unique. We see interesting cases. We encounter patients who challenge us, and patients who teach us important life lessons. And if we're lucky, our experiences with them confirm the reasons we pursued a physician career in the first place.
We asked medical residents what patient encounters made them think: "This is exactly why I went into medicine." Here's what they had to say.
Helping underserved populations
Priyanka Moondra, DO: “Every week, I meet patients who don't have a doctor and travel far and wide to see us. Most do not speak English. The most complicated patient case was one who we diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but the patient could not afford the typical treatment plan due to lack of medical insurance. Advocating for the patient led us to obtain insurance and start treatment as promptly as possible. I was grateful to see the impact that can be made with persistence.”
"The gratitude of my patients while in a resident clinic dedicated to underserved populations reminds me every day that I am living my purpose."
— Priyanka Moondra, DO; Resident Physician, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System
Providing comfort to those who need it
Vignesh Ramachandran, MD: “I remember a patient encounter during my residency with a young girl who had come in with her mother. The girl had vitiligo, and her mother was understandably scared and concerned about what the diagnosis meant for her daughter's health and future. I could see the worry etched on their faces as I began to explain the condition and what we could do to help manage it.
"As I spoke with them, I realized that being a dermatologist was about so much more than just treating skin conditions. It was about helping patients and their families feel reassured and comfortable in their own skin, no matter what they were going through."
"Seeing the relief on their faces and knowing that I had helped ease their fears was an incredibly rewarding experience, and it reminded me why I was in medicine in the first place."
— Vignesh Ramachandran, MD, PGY-3, NYU Dermatology
The honor of educating patients
Christina Pedro, MD: “As family medicine physicians, we are chosen to be educators to help patients with their acute medical problems, as well as remind them of how to plan for healthier lives long term.
"Helping educate patients on the healthcare system, giving them tools, and helping them understand what they need for medical care—it humbles me, this opportunity to provide patients key information that can have long-lasting benefits to their health.”
"Every hospitalized patient at discharge who has no follow-up plan, or primary care physician to follow up with, reminds me of why I chose to go into family medicine."
— Christina Pedro, MD, Resident Physician, Mission Community Hospital
Validating my patient's experience
Kelechi Acholonu, DO: A patient encounter that helped confirm my desire to pursue medicine was when a child psychiatric patient had presented for treatment for her depressive symptoms. She had never been exposed to the psychiatric world.
"Watching her light up as I helped validate her mental health experiences and guide her through therapies was the highlight of my residency experience. "
— Kelechi Acholonu, DO
Other inspiring moments with patients
Adnan Manzoor, MD—“When I had a daughter hug me and say thank you for treating my dad and helping him get better! It makes it all worth the hours and hard work.”
Chidi Wamuo, MD—“Working with young adolescent males within the juvenile justice system confirmed why I went into medicine because they were often not provided with adequate psychiatric support and truly benefited from having someone listen to them.”
Thomas P. DO, PGY3—“I am not the type of person who needs to run code blues, save patients from the brink of death, run central lines or intubate in stressful situations. I got into medicine to improve patient quality of life. So being able to educate patients on how to live a better life, decrease pill burden, help improve functionality, and stay out of the hospital is what drive my sense of accomplishment.”
Cindy Tsui, MD—"I saw a new clinic patient who came in for a sexually transmitted infection. Afterward, she thanked me for being so attentive and respectful to her as a black trans woman, addressing all of her concerns with a concrete plan, and also making sure she would receive her standard primary care screenings and vaccinations."
Whether we are saving lives, consoling family members who have lost loved ones, educating our patients, or being advocates for those who do not have a voice, we, as physicians, go into medicine to care for patients in hopes that we can somehow make the world a better place.
My patients have uncovered every human emotion in me; from anger and joy to sadness and concern. Inevitably it is the life lessons that I've learned from these patients that have made it a privilege to be a doctor.
Every medical resident has a question to ask and a story to tell—a comical moment, a prickly patient encounter, or a hack for staying sane during residency. We survey medical trainees for their best questions and answers and bring them to you in this column. Engaging, enlightening, and entertaining—from resident to resident!