Today I received an email from a former Emory student/resident that was, quite possibly, the single, most moving thing I've ever had written to me or about me in my entire career. I'm busy right now. Just got back on the hospital service. Have been mad at myself about missing personal deadlines on completing a manuscript I need to finish. And dreading the over 15 “strong” letters of recommendation that students are depending upon me to write for their residency applications. This work can be so grueling sometimes. And sometimes thankless, too.
I started out this day feeling frazzled. I rushed the kids all around the house this morning and still got both of them to school just after the bell. (Fail.) After that, I drove to work coaching myself like a good girlfriend, saying things like, “Girl, stop tripping! You are a great mom” and “Oh, come on. You're an awesome doctor.” Because, you know? It was just one of those days. I was so turned around at 1 point that I thought it was Friday. Except it was Thursday.
But then I checked my email. While sitting in my minivan waiting for my son to come out of ultimate Frisbee practice and feeling flustered about the things I still had to do once I got home. A simple tap of my thumb and there it was. Waiting on my iPhone like a balm for my soul. On a day that I truly needed it.
As a clinician educator, I have won some really great awards—I'm talking career-defining ones that parents and family fly in to witness. I've also done some cool stuff, from talking to Anderson Cooper on CNN to publishing in JAMA and Annals of Internal Medicine in the same month to even getting a medical blog nod in the doggone Oprah Magazine. But nothing—and I do mean nothing—compares to 1 individual learner's affirmation that you've had a real, true impact on his or her life and career. It supersedes any trophy, plaque or media attention. My fellow clinician educators (and educators in general) know what I mean.
You know what? I feel like going on.
Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, FAAP is an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches medical students and residents at Grady Hospital. This post is adapted from Reflections of a Grady Doctor, Dr. Manning’s blog about teaching, learning, caring and growing in medicine and life. It has been adapted and reprinted with permission. Identifying information has been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.