As I sit writing this contribution to the website, I have recently completed a two-week stint as a ward attending on the Medical Service at Rhode Island Hospital, which followed shortly after a two-week rotation at the Miriam Hospital. As always after my time on clinical service, I am energized by the experience. First and foremost, it is always wonderful to be back seeing patients again. I remain humbled by how privileged I am to be able to care for patients during very difficult times in their lives. Few careers offer a person the opportunity to make someone’s day better with every workday. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to cure the patients, to make them completely better. More often, we address chronic diseases that require persistent management, where our interventions do not cure, but alleviate symptoms. I feel gratified when our team is able to overcome some social barriers to our patients’ health or living situation, enabling them to live healthier or more secure. Occasionally, we need to deliver bad news. Even those moments are an opportunity to do something good, by delivering the news as compassionately as we possibly can.
The Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals are busy places, as are the Providence VA and Women’s and Infants Hospital. Patients come in sick, get diagnosed very quickly and have therapeutic plans prepared for them, often over only a matter of hours. The successful execution of the complex choreography required for efficient use of hospital resources in modern times requires the dedicated work of physicians, nurses, nurses’ aides, pharmacists, administrators, social workers, dietary workers, transport workers, laboratory technicians and a host of other important role-players. I was very impressed by how quickly we were able to get things accomplished, and the good nature with which everyone did their jobs.
Of course, among the most pleasurable of my experiences was getting to know quite a few of our impressive medical house staff. These young physicians make the hospital work for the patients. They are smart, hard-working, conscientious and truly concerned about their patients’ well-being. As a Chairman of a large Department of Medicine, my disparate responsibilities often prevent more than limited and intermittent contact with house staff – at conferences, for example. The opportunity to serve as ward attending gives me a chance to get to our residents on a very different level, to see them regularly make routine and major decisions. In turn, they get a chance to see how I approach patients and difficult medical decisions in real time. They see me struggle like any other conscientious physician. In short, we learn from each other, and establish a bond that is truly special.
Finally, no Chairman’s Introduction would be complete without acknowledging the extraordinary events of this past year and a half. First of all, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in this country continues to pose daunting new challenges to our health care system, as it has throughout the world. I am proud to say that our residents, fellows, faculty and most importantly, our nurses, have been equal to every challenge and we have, to date, managed to continue to deliver the highest quality care to all of our patients, all while learning about a brand-new disease in real time. The presence of the SARS-CoV2 virus in our community continues to require all of us to make some adjustments to our clinical routines for the foreseeable future. We will continue to use these challenges as an opportunity to refine our practices to benefit our patients and the community. This we will accomplish together. Secondly, the racial violence that has rocked our country last year has held up to the light the reality that many of us, our neighbors, friends, patients, and colleagues face daily. This recognition, long overdue for many of us, has prompted a spirit of unity evident in our students, residents, fellows and faculty, who have marched together several times from Rhode Island Hospital to the Rhode Island Statehouse. While these expressions of principle raise awareness, I am optimistic that they will lead to action and commitment – both of which must be sustained. This too we will accomplish together.
Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic will once again preclude the possibility of on-site visits for residency applicants for this academic year and possibly beyond. While not being able to meet our future residents in person during the application process is a disappointment to us, we will make every effort to ensure that you are able to get a strong sense of the truly rich environment we cherish here at the Brown Department of Medicine. Last year’s process was a challenge for everyone but, from my perspective, our outstanding intern class is testament to the fact that a terrific match is possible even virtually. I welcome you all warmly, virtually and, for the moment, with some degree of ongoing social distancing. Thank you for your interest in Brown Internal Medicine.
Louis B. Rice, MD
Chairman, Department of Medicine