Richard P. Holm, MD
As part of our Prairie Doc volunteer work to spread science-based public health information, we have assembled a group of pre-professional college women and men to help us out. Almost every Thursday night at 7 PM (6 mountain time), these young “Prairie Doc Assistants”, or PDAs, answer telephone call-in questions for our TV show on PBS. This changing group, initiated by our friend and advisor Mr. Judge Kelley, has been helping us for more than four years.
These kids not only help answer phone calls during live shows, but they help research medical topics, and even help others during medical mission trips. In return, we give them the opportunity to meet our medical guests for 30 minutes before the show, and we help them find shadowing experiences with physicians. They need to experience a taste of what it would be like in med school and in the real world after starting practice, before they commit to it.
My first two years of medical school, back in the 70’s, required putting my nose into books, memorizing how the normal human body works, and understanding what can happen when illness strikes. The second two years, and the internship and residency that followed, were spent learning from an older and experienced master who taught by example. This mentor-based teaching style is a lot like the medieval way of learning, like being an apprentice to a silversmith who knows what he’s doing, and who guides you in making your first silver tea service. In medicine, I think the hands-on, one-on-one, mentoring experience is what matters the most, but the book-learning part is still necessary. Now, med schools are mixing together the book-learning and the mentoring throughout the four years of education, which is a better deal in my opinion.
During my life of medical practice, I have mentored many apprentice nurse practitioner students, P.A. students, medical students, and medical residents; all while I was caring for patients. I asked the patient permission first and very rarely had anyone say “no" to having a student in the room. How else are they to learn how to listen, examine, and think in their quest to become a high-quality care giver? Besides, having a student watching can only make a doctor try harder and be better.
Now, I find myself encouraging college students into the glorious and rewarding field of medicine. Indeed, what an honor it has been to have a treasure chest of knowledge that can be used to help others!