Sunday, March 16, 2014

The value of mentorship

I entered medical school in 1996 with a vague interest in primary care.  During my M1 year, I focused more on my studies than on my career path, and sought to spend time with my wife (having just been married a month before medical school).  My M1 Foundations of Clinical Medicine (FCM) community preceptor placement was in a family medicine office in South Richmond, but I received little hands-on experience, and it did not help clarify my path.

    Everything changed in my M2 year.  As part of our school’s rural interest group, I had met Dr. Augustine (Gus) Lewis, who had taken on his father’s practice in rural Aylett, Virginia, and I was matched to his office for my M2 FCM placement.  Dr. Lewis was a family physician committed to his community and patients, and they were committed to him.  He knew patients by name, and he knew many of their families and stories.  He focused on patients’ needs, and took their social situation into account when recommending care.  He had a comprehensive, whole-person focus.

    As a teacher and physician, Dr. Lewis was generous with his time and knowledge, and engaged me as an active learner.  He also could have chosen to practice anywhere, and chose rural Virginia.  I realized that one could be an up-to-date, knowledgeable, patient-focused, community-oriented physician in rural Virginia.  His example became a guide for me during my own training and career, and I am glad to consider him a colleague and friend.

    I am honored to consider Gus a mentor, a colleague, and a friend.  I was glad when he received the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation's 2013 Salute to Service Award for Service to the Profession.  You can hear some of Gus's story in his own words here.  I could not imagine a better recipient, or a better role model.

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