Sit Down and Listen

Marvin Klikunas, M.D.
Marvin Klikunas, M.D.

This blog post features remarks from Marvin Klikunas, M.D., clinical associate professor of medicine and the 2017 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine award winner. He addressed the Class of 2021 at their White Coat Ceremony October 13, 2017.

What a joy it is to be here with all of you as this class of future doctors begins their medical journey.

It certainly brings back a lot of memories.

By virtue of being near the end of my journey in medicine, I get to tell you a couple of things that have made the journey worthwhile for me.  I recently ran into a commencement speech that the late Steve Jobs gave at Stanford some years ago. I had seen it before, but there was a link to it in something else I was reading and it was good to read it again. In the beginning of the speech he says to the graduates that he wants to tell them three stories from his life. He says, “That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.” I really liked that because in the next few years you are going to worry about all kinds of things that will seem like “a big deal” for you to learn, but it is often the things that seem like “no big deal” that patients will most appreciate, and that you may feel are most rewarding.

With that in mind, the first thing I want to tell you is, Sit Down and Listen.

Let me show you what I mean.

[The following photos and video are shown on screens.]

Doctors making rounds
Doctors making rounds throughout history.
Another moment where doctors are making rounds
Another more contemporary moment where doctors are making rounds.

And here is the new elephant in the room:

So, Sit Down and Listen.

Now, I don’t mean to rail against computers in medicine, but the history is still the most important way to get information about the patient in front of you. In fact, it is the only way to get the basic information that will guide you in your use of all the technology at your disposal today.

And, when you stand over the patient, indeed, perhaps, with your back to the patient and your attention on a screen, it sends a message that you are in a hurry to be somewhere else, that you have other, more important, places to be.

When you Sit Down and Listen, it sends the most basic message of caring and you not only get a better medical history, you also hear some wonderful human stories and make some fantastic human connections.

Now let me go back to Steve Jobs and his commencement address. One of the stories he told that day was, he said, about “Love and Loss”. Steve Jobs, of course, started Apple in his parent’s garage with a friend. In 10 years it had become a great success with thousands of employees – and then he was fired. But his story is that, over the next five years, some great things happened in his life, and he says that the only thing that kept him going was that he loved what he did. He said, “your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Well, there is no question that your work is going to fill a large part of your lives, especially these next several  years, but you have all been given the opportunity to do, what you should all believe, is truly great work.  From small town primary care docs to the most specialized of specialists and researchers, this is truly great work and I hope that you all love what you do.

So, good luck, enjoy the day, and, then, get back to work.

What are your thoughts about this topic?