Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Who is your clinical role model and how have they influenced your practice?


Read five short stories of clinical role models who have shaped the practices of a psychiatrist, a chemical dependency specialist, a resident, a critical care physician, and a cardiologist.

Lifelong Learning in Clinical Excellence | April 20, 2018 | <1 min read


Margaret Chisolm, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

When I was a med student, I worked with a clinical psychologist who marched to the beat of a different drummer. It was a beat no one else could even faintly hear, sounded by a perhaps-imaginary drummer. With his long beard and hair, faded cross-body bag (think Goodwill, not Gucci), and Birkenstock sandals, this psychologist was a dead-ringer for Gandalf the Grey. His faculty office was remarkable too—it looked like none I had seen before, nor since. Every horizontal surface was literally covered in rocks, feathers, branches, and other natural treasures.

But the real treasure was his ability to connect with patients who had schizophrenia, by listening to and honoring their experiences, psychotic or otherwise. He was authentically curious to hear their stories and gave each and every patient his full, undivided attention.

And although I don’t yet resemble anyone from Middle Earth, this psychologist taught me two things:

1.) The importance of being myself.

2.) The value of listening.

Mike Fingerhood, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

My clinical role model was Dr. Ted Parran, who interviewed me for residency. After I matched at Johns Hopkins Bayview, he became my role model. He was doing what I wanted to do—provide primary care to patients with addiction. I saw mostly uninsured patients with him in O’Donnell Heights, Baltimore, at a clinic with no resources.  He coached me to use rapport building, history taking, and the physical exam as the tools for primary care. I “became” Ted when he moved to Cleveland in 1990.

What do you think?

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Lingsheng Li, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

In the second year of med school, my clinical mentor and role model Dr. Andrew Dentino said to our class, “Geriatrics is caring for those who’ve cared for us.”

I think of this quote often and these words came to mind on my first day of Intern year when I was getting ready to meet my very first primary care patient, a 92-year-old great-grandmother who adored buttered popcorn.

We ended our clinic visit with plans to simplify her medication regimen, ideas to improve her physical strength, and a promise to see each other again in three months. As I left her room, I realized just how much she reminded me of my own grandmother who helped raise me for the first decade of my life.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many octogenarians, nonagenarians, and their loved ones. Many came in with similar symptoms of shortness of breath, leg swelling, and/or weakness. Many felt better after getting antibiotics, diuretics, or sometimes simply fluids. After a while, however, my assessment/plan for patients became driven by the list of differential diagnoses and I lost track of the individuals who came through our hospital doors. Dr. Dentino’s words again came to my rescue.

With the start of new H&P’s, I now wonder out loud the things that bring my patients joy and the people who give them hope. If a spouse or partner is present in the room, my favorite question to ask is, “how did you two meet each other?”

When I look back and reflect on what I’ve learned from my patients, their social history comes to life.

Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

My clinical role model is nurse and case manager Kathy Ward. She has so much insight into the non-biological factors that impact our patients’ care. She draws such insight through conversation and meeting the patients where they currently are in their lives. Kathy Ward has helped me understand that health is more than medicine and biological knowledge.

Roy Ziegelstein, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

My clinical role model was Dr. Alice Nauen, a pediatrician in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By the time I met Dr. Nauen, she was retired and in her mid-80s, so I never actually saw her practice. Even so, she had a greater impact on me as a clinical role model than anyone else in my life.

Dr. Nauen knew every one of her patients and she knew their parents…and she CARED DEEPLY about them. She was sensitive to the child’s feelings, to the feelings of the parents, and to the dynamic between child and parent.

At the same time, she was brilliant and committed to lifelong learning and improvement, even well into her 80s and retired from practice!