Sending MSSC members into local schools to mark National Doctors’ Day gives physicians a chance to share their passion for practicing medicine while providing students a better idea of what it takes to become – and then be – a doctor.
Students asked about and heard of the years and hard work that go into joining the profession; that dance, theater and English majors get into medical school; that you don’t need to be a math whiz; and that you can have a life and be a doctor, too.
They also heard doctors share how practicing medicine was a calling, with family physician Dr. Steere’s “I get invited into people’s lives, and that’s why I became a doctor” reflecting a recurring theme.
This year Dr. Steere and 13 other physicians – Kent Bradley, Paul Callaway, Anita Campbell, Jed Delmore, Braden Foster, Dee Lochmann, Matthew Macaluso, David Miller, Justin Moore, Randall Morgan, Barry Murphy, Ragnar Peterson and Timothy Shaver – participated in visits from March 28 through March 30, the official Doctors’ Day.
All together, they spoke to about 225 students across eight classes at Independent School, West High, Trinity Academy, Wichita Collegiate and Northeast Magnet High School. Some came with prepared remarks or presentations but left plenty of time for students to fire away with questions.
As scrubs-clad general surgeon Dr. Peterson said to teacher Julia Fulbright’s Human Body Systems class at Northeast Magnet High School, “The doctor is in. How can I help you?”
Dr. Peterson shared that he wasn’t a great student in high school but knew he “wanted my life to mean something.” To succeed in medicine requires learning to contend with failure – and learn from it. “I’ve yet to do a perfect operation, and I’ve done over 6,000,” he said.
Students often inquired about the length of medical school. MSSC President Delmore gave the rundown – four years undergrad, four of med school, three or more of residency, possibly two or three of fellowship. “It seems like it’s forever but you do get paid,” he said, adding that’s why “you want to pick something you want to do every day.”
Dr. Delmore addressed a range of questions, from robotic surgery to health disparities to nursing to going to Texas A&M (his alma mater). And, in a common question, was asked about the portrayal of doctors on television. “It’s not like on TV. There’s not as much sex,” he said, adding that close – platonic – friendships develop among residents.
At Collegiate, one of Brent Gehrer’s freshman biology classes heard from Dr. Shaver, a rheumatologist. He told how he grew up as a science-loving people person, and “medicine brought those things together.” He explained how different interests and personality types were drawn to different specialties. Some doctors want to take care of everything, so family medicine is for them, while others like fixing things, so surgery is a good option. Dr. Shaver liked mysteries, so rheumatology was his choice.
Drs. Lochmann and Macaluso, psychiatrists on the KUSM-Wichita faculty, spoke to another group of Collegiate students of how they are both physicians and mental health professionals. Dr. Macaluso told how he enjoyed research and performing clinical trials, sharing an experience where a new, injectable anti-depressant drug “completely changed the lives of these people.”
Dr. Lochmann shared that, “I love in-patient care. The brain is fascinating to me, as is seeing where the brain can take you.”
“You save lives in psychiatry, and that’s something people don’t realize,” she said.
In her session at the Independent School, Dr. Steere, a “science nerd” who went to medical school after working as a research chemist, noted you don’t have to be a biology or chemistry major to enter medicine. It’s more important to be a good writer and a good thinker willing to work hard.
Although it’s not easy, particularly for women still, to balance work and family, it can be done, said Dr. Steere, a mother to three.
“You make it yours,” she said, adding that you shouldn’t avoid going into medicine “because you don’t think you can have a normal life. You can.”
“Dr. Moore was a wonderful guest speaker,” said Melody Robinson of West High, noting he stayed after the scheduled time and took additional questions. One of Robinson’s students later told her that Dr. Moore “helped her so much with info and gave her the motivation needed to know she could become a doctor – she wants to be a pediatric oncologist.”
“My students were inspired and were so appreciative to get a ‘real-world’ view of what they can expect on the path to a medical career, as well as what they can expect out of that career,” said Julia Fulbright, a Northeast Magnet High School science teacher. “It put a lot of students in a very motivated spirit, and they were mostly surprised with how relatable the presenters were.”