When I got to the hospital I asked them if there were any open residency spots. They said there were, but to get the job I had to first answer three questions: Do you speak English? Do you know how to use a word processor? Can we see your transcripts?
I said yes to all three and they told me I had a job!
On March 22nd I went back to Buenos Aires on flight 9555.
I asked my Dad what he thought I should do.
“Take it!” He said. “This is what you wanted to do, so do it!”
Because I would be practicing medicine in a different country I had to go through another four years of residency, but I didn’t care. It took me another seven years before I was a doctor in the United States, even though I had already been a doctor in Argentina.
I do the ‘trifecta of medicine’ – I take care of patients, research and teach NYU medical students. Because of my background I sought to reintroduce the skills I learned in Argentina in the United States, both in my practice and my teachings at NYU. What I really focus on is the ancient art of the bedside diagnosis.
I came from a country with little technology to a country that is very technologically inclined. But the medical technology in the United States seems to have replaced human empathy and compassion in some circumstances. It also makes up for human errors and sometimes fails to create robust doctors because they can always fall back on technology. This leads to a lack of attention to detail and a lack of human touch. There are some doctors in the United States that approach patients with an apparatus and don’t even make eye contact. They don’t engage in conversation. Technology should support the physician but we're being overrun by technology as a replacement of bedside manners. After a while a doctor will lose these skills – like a painter who loses the ability to paint after falling out of practice.
I try to teach the young physicians to not become overly reliant on technology and thusly fail to connect with their patients in a deeper and more personal way. A great physician is technical at the bedside but also capable of bonding and listening to physical cues. I try to show the students that the marriage of art and science is best to help people get through illnesses.
I bring the medical students to the bedside. I have them make eye contact with the patients and put their hands on the patient’s bellies. I encourage them to look and feel; to notice subtle changes in the body. I tell them that although nowadays we need an EKG machine to diagnose certain heart conditions, our forefathers looked at the veins of the neck to make those same determinations.
I don’t want to let go of bedside manners and diagnosis, which I think is the cornerstone of practicing medicine. There is something irreplaceable about grabbing someone’s hand and connecting with them on a deeper level; about having a heartfelt conversation and really listening to what the patient has to say. It is something no technical device will never be able to simulate. It makes medicine elegant again. It brings back the mystique of healing.
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