It’s been four or five years since I’ve had a medical student in the office with me. I’m not sure why. It can be a bit of a hassle: they slow me down, and there’s no extra money in it. But it’s worth it for the joy of teaching, meeting and mentoring future colleagues (if I can talk them into primary care.) I think of it as professional reproduction.
For whatever reason, I have another one with me this month. He’s from Drexel, the school that ate my alma mater, and he’s a winner.
He’s smart, kind, and a willing worker. Even though as a first-year student much of the stuff he sees is way over his head (he had neither pathology nor pharmacology yet, fer cryin out loud), he is eager to learn.
Yesterday he was in a minor fender-bender. Here’s the story he told me:
He was changing lanes in Center City Philadelphia, pulling to the curb to drop someone off, and heard a bang. He finished pulling over, and got out of the car.
The other driver charged up to him and shouted, “You cut me off!”
My student’s response: “Are you okay?”
Instantly the guy calmed down a bit. “Yeah, I think so.”
Then my student noticed two little kids in the back seat, buckled into their car seats.
“Are they okay?” he asked.
That’s when the other driver’s face relaxed completely. No longer defensive at all, he answered, “Yeah, they’re fine.”
Having ascertained that all souls involved were uninjured, attention was finally turned to the vehicles, which were also intact. Tiny scuffs adorned each car, barely enough to warrant the exchange of information.
From what could easily have escalated into an ugly confrontation, my student came away with several invaluable experiences:
- People respond to empathy. My student was especially struck by the other driver’s instant change in demeanor when faced with concern for his well-being instead of a defensive response.
- People are more important than things, even cars.
The kid may never have heard the word “mensch”, but he is a shining example. WTG, JL.