Medical students are taught early on that the doctor/patient relationship is a sacred one that should never be neglected. That sentiment was echoed by the latest guest speaker at UCF College of Medicine which was generously sponsored by Jacque and Rip Gellein. Dr. Barry Kerzin is a Buddhist monk, and personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Dressed in his traditional monk’s robe, Kerzin addressed the crowd during a special event on Thursday, June 6. The crowd included current and prospective medical students, Central Florida community physicians and College of Medicine faculty. The college’s dean and vice president for medical affairs, Dr. Deborah German introduced the guest speaker, who focused on the necessary components of a good doctor/patient relationship. “Many of us are physicians or physicians in training, but we’re also patients,” she said. “No matter who you are, I think this topic will touch each one of us in a very different way.”
Dr. Kerzin, highlighted honesty as one of the most important parts of a doctor/patient relationship. “Honesty is the foundation of ethics,” Dr. Kerzin said. “Slow down, and look introspectively, ask yourself: Am I being honest?” He added that the medical field can be a fast paced world, and that can cause pressure to speed through patient visits, or glaze over details about their condition. Dr. Kerzin advised that doctors should always take a minute to pause and evaluate how they are treating their patients. He says that self-evaluation is necessary to maintain trust with the patient.
“Remember the last time you went to the doctor,” Kerzin asked. “If there wasn’t a smile, or some compassion, you weren’t satisfied.” He added that it is helpful to think of how you would want your own loved ones to be treated and act accordingly.
Dr. Kerzin also delved into the difficult situation of caring for a dying patient. Treating a terminal illness can often inflict a sense of failure in physicians, but he says it’s important to resist that feeling. “Sometimes we feel like we have a mandate to cure,” Kerzin said. “We have to recognize [a terminal illness] is the time when we are most needed. Do it with an open heart and it will reward your practice of medicine.” He added that sometimes just sitting with the patient can be the most helpful thing to do. “If you don’t know what to say, then say nothing.”
Because of his vocation as a Buddhist monk, spirituality has continually played a role in Dr. Kerzin’s practice of medicine. As time goes on, he says the two worlds continue to become even more intertwined. “As a physician I was trained to treat physical problems, as a Bhuddist monk, I deal with more emotional problems,” he said. “More and more I realize these are not so far away. The two worlds are much more blended for me now.”
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