A Doctor’s Prescription – Part 1 – What Really Matters

I recently read a wonderful article titled “A Doctor’s Prescription” from my alma mater’s alumni publication, Notre Dame Magazine. It is a letter written by Dr. John Fisher, an Infectious Disease doctor in Augusta, GA, to pre-med college students. In his letter, Dr. Fisher calls for these students to rethink becoming a doctor, but not for the reasons you might expect! Dr. Fisher recommends that college students do a “gut check” to make sure they are going into medicine for the right reason – a genuine love for people. You may be thinking that a lot more than love is required to become a doctor, and that would be true! However, if someone has the academic chops to be a doctor, does that mean they should become a doctor? The answer that comes out of the article is “No.” Dr. Fisher believes that having the smarts without the heart is not enough.

This article really hit home for me. It reminded me of a time in medical school when I was on a pediatric ICU rotation. It seemed that despite my best efforts, my fellow classmates would answer the attending physician’s questions before me while we were on rounds. This was not only frustrating but made me feel unworthy. I pulled Dr. Keisha Bell, one of the Georgetown University Hospital attending ICU physicians, aside one day to ask what I could do to improve my standing on that rotation. More than 15 years later, I still remember her advice: most of my future patients would not be coming to me due to the grades I received while in medical school, but due to my bedside manner. I’m sure it will be reassuring to you to hear that I did just fine in medical school, but it was certainly reassuring to me to hear her advice at the time. I didn’t know it then, but Dr. Bell previewed Dr. Fisher’s article for me more than a decade ago!

I understand Dr. Fisher’s argument, and it really inspired me! I passed the article along to the pre-med students that I know at the University of South Carolina, and I would highly recommend it to any student who is considering applying to medical school. 

I read this article near the end of 2022 and the end-of-the year timing put me into a reflective mood. I began to recollect my journey into medicine starting with my pre-med college years through the next 10 years of my career as a family physician and now as an owner of my own Direct Primary Care (DPC) practice in Columbia, SC. I’ve combined my reflections with comments about Dr. Fisher’s article in a four-part blog series. Future blogs will cover these topics:

  • Part 2 – Why Does Bedside Manner Matter?
  • Part 3 – My Practical Advice for Pre-med College Students
  • Part 4 – Why I Love Family Medicine
Dr. Boylan. Columbia South Carolina

Have a good week! Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Melissa Boylan, MD, FAAFP
Family Physician and Owner of Noreta Family Medicine