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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 24, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 19
Tutorials Give Pre-Med Students a Glimpse Into Their Futures

William Baumgartner and Vincent Gott, third and fourth from left, make the rounds at JHH with a group of students in the Tutorial program.

By Amy Cowles

Thirty-one pre-med students on the Homewood campus are getting a glimpse into their future this month, thanks to two noncredit clinical programs offered during intersession by the Office of Preprofessional Advising and doctors at Johns Hopkins and Union Memorial hospitals.

Both the three-week Tutorial program and the weeklong Master Clinician program allow undergraduates to interact with physicians, nurses and laboratory technicians volunteering their time to help the next generation of doctors learn more about their chosen profession. The students shadow doctors on rounds, watch operations and observe the doctor-patient relationship in action.

"It lets the students explore what medicine is all about," said the creator of the Tutorial program, William Baumgartner, Vincent L. Gott Professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine and cardiac surgeon in charge at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. "This is an eye-opener as to what is involved and the rewards of being in medicine. And it's lots of fun. The students are very excited and enthusiastic."

The Tutorial program focuses on three specialty areas of medicine, while the Master Clinician program aims to show young doctors-to-be the importance of fostering good doctor-patient relationships.

The 16 students participating in this year's Tutorial program are devoting their time to anesthesia, cardiac surgery or general surgery, all at Johns Hopkins. The 15 students in the Master Clinician program were matched with eight physicians in different specialties at both Johns Hopkins and Union Memorial, spending half a day with each to observe the way doctors interact with their patients. The Master Clinician week concludes with a discussion back at Homewood led by associate professor Richard Heitmiller, formerly at Johns Hopkins and now chief of surgery at Union Memorial Hospital, who emphasizes that the doctor-patient relationship is the basic building block for medicine, no matter what field a physician pursues.

"You're going to be dealing with people from wildly different backgrounds," Heitmiller told a group of students who met with him Jan. 14. "You need to have an idea of where they are coming from to connect with them and get your message across."

The programs were created a few years ago when Baumgartner approached Ronald Fishbein, assistant dean for pre-professional programs (and associate professor emeritus of surgery), with a desire to increase students' awareness of surgery as a specialty and cardiac surgery as a subspecialty. The conversation between colleagues led to a talk on the Homewood campus by Baumgartner and other surgeons, which was attended by 40 or 50 students, Baumgartner said. The success of that event led the doctors to build curriculum specifically for the cardio thoracic intersession tutorial. To expand the program, the Office of Preprofessional Advising turned to Jean Kan, professor emeritus of pediatrics and premedical adviser, who created the curriculum for general surgery and anesthesia turtorials. Kan also encourages doctors to participate in the programs each year and then coordinates the complex schedule that keeps everyone on track.

"It takes a lot to set this all up, but it's so worth it," Kan said. "We want these students to be doctors who get up every day and say, 'Man, this is great — pinch me.'"

The program evolves and grows each year, with doctors, nurses and other hospital employees contributing.

"The reason the program is successful is that everybody embraces these kids," Baumgartner said. "They are open to them and really look out for them."

Students, too, are embracing the program, with up to 84 applications received for each section of the program. For many students, organizers said, the intersession experience can be life defining.

"The most valuable thing I learned is that a doctor is a person and a patient is a person, and the fact that we are all people requires that we respect each other," said Zirui Song, a junior majoring in public health studies.

Song picked up on a message emphasized by both Heitmiller and Baumgartner.

"There is a lot happening in the world of medicine today," Baumgartner said. "But what hasn't changed is that caring for patients is a real honor."


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