I am sure all of us have been there. You know… the doctor’s office where you sit down and tell that random person in a suit what’s wrong with you. Ninety percent of the time, it feels like that guy isn’t even listening and at the very end gets up, smiles a no doubt “genuine” smile, and passes you off as another patient with another disease who no doubt needs the same treatment as the last one. Ok, so maybe I grew up in a place with a lot of terrible doctors… Maybe I am just paranoid and don’t like doctors, but that’s not the point. The point is that the title of doctor is a respected title that carries with it a lot of prestige. This is tenfold true outside of the U.S., and a lot of people get into the profession for all the wrong reasons (good pay and good status in society). The most ironic thing is that here at Mayo, probably one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world, is that there is relatively little of that nonsense. I am not going to lie to you and tell you no one here is like that. If I read a blog that said something like that I would probably stop reading right there on account of too much B.S. to handle in one sitting.
I will try and explain why I think this is true in the best manner possible. In the first few years, I arrived here I was shocked but pleased by how nice and helpful everyone in the various medical professions was. Coming from Lebanon, I was constantly looking for the façade… the truth beneath the surface. Most doctors back home are just there because there is a severe shortage of professions that work in that sort of economy, and when kids are young they are all encouraged into that profession. After all, what could be better for a mother than to have a well off, well respected doctor as a son? Honestly not much going by the old fashioned sense that has persevered in our world. Here, in the United States, it is much better, but there is still a lingering essence of the same beliefs. I believe that the work ethic and the way the system is set up here at Mayo (and probably at other institutions I have never been to) are strong at combating this.
First off the “Midwest work ethic” is especially puzzling to someone like me. The truth of the matter is that people here are the way they are because a lot of them, themselves grew up on a farm or had a parent who grew up on a farm. If any of you are familiar with farm life or even know anything about the history of Superman ( the most noble boy scout that never existed), then you know nothing builds character more than old fashioned farm work. Most farm people are honest and kind too. Those are obviously ideal characteristics for any doctor to have.
As for the way the system works, there are conferences happening on a daily basis and although they cover a broad array of topics, most of them attempt to use the mistakes committed to learn how to better the quality of the medical care. It’s common for smart people to learn from their mistakes and more importantly the mistakes of others, but to see it done on such a grand scale is impressive. These conferences also happen to have free lunch which of course is not the reason at all why I go… (I hope you didn’t buy that line), and a surprising number of the ones I attend actually focus entirely on what some people find obvious and others don’t: putting yourself in the patient’s shoes. Even the one’s that don’t focus on this almost always include a section where they discuss how the patient could have been cared for more.
Every institution is like a tree bearing fruit and no one tree can produce solely good fruit, but a tree is considered of excellent quality if the majority of the fruit is good. After all, bad apples fall from every tree, but never have I seen tree of this quality. This quality really does show in everything Mayo does and translates over very well into the graduate school, but I will talk about that more in the next blog.