A thank you letter to my attending physician, given the day of my graduation from residency:
How can I possibly tell you how you’ve changed my world since I’ve known you. None of us knew what to make of you when you arrived, demanding growth charts and immunization records. Quickly, I realized that mediocrity doesn’t work with you, only excellence, excellence, excellence. Demanding as you are, your patience with my repeated questions (“why are we adding rifampin?”) encouraged me as an intern. I could listen to your voice for days. No matter the time, you are always willing to teach me. I remember a late night when a child with unexplained fever for weeks arrived on our floors. You spent two hours with me, explaining your thought process, helping me through mine. As an intern, I casually mentioned going to Africa someday, although I’m not sure I believed I ever really would. From that point forward, you reminded me practically every time I saw you that one day, I would go to Africa. Hearing you say it convinced me, and before long, I really was going to Africa. You surprised me the first time I saw you, an attending, kneel down on the floor to examine a child. You’re not above kneeling, and I shouldn’t be either. Your criticism of my notes seemed harsh, but you were also quick to praise when I got it right. Now as I type my own progress notes, I hear your voice in my head, reminding me to address every problem, growth and development, and that dreaded immunization record. You demand that we attend to the entire patient, not just their bronchiolitis. Each child is more than a pair of lungs. You’ve taught me to be thorough, to examine a patient from scalp to toes and look at every inch of skin for clues to their diagnosis. I’ve watched you fight the good fight: battles to rescue battered babies from their parents, to pursue palliation when continued treatment is painful and futile. Above all, you persevere in doing what is right and best for the child no matter how hard it may be. You challenge me to be a better pediatrician. I remember the three best days a pediatrician can have. You’ve taught them to me, and I’ve seen you work through all three. I have loved serving alongside you and laughing with you (I love hearing you say “gerbil”). You have been a mentor and friend to many of us. I’ll miss popping into your office to chat over a cup of tea. Your stories from chasing the pregnant Yanomami to losing a shaken infant in Moberly have inspired me. You’ve taught me to think globally and act locally, and, whenever possible, narrow the antibiotic spectrum. You are certainly not a baby killer, and thanks to you, neither am I.