In the second week of April–a time in Durham when green-yellow buds burst forth from barren branches, the birds tune up their summer songs, and azaleas flash with magenta and pink–our division finished its interview season for fellows for next year. By all indications, 2012 will be a banner year. The applicants we interviewed were uniformly bright, motivated, and enthusiastic. I would be happy to have any one of these fine young people join our program. Whoever comes to Durham, we will do our best to teach them the fine points of rheumatology. We will also teach them about motion offense and man-to-man defense for those who live under a rock and do not know Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.
Like all young people applying for positions these days—medical school, house staff, fellowship—our applicants were uniformly well dressed. Dark suits are clearly de rigueur for men and women alike. Such an outfit clearly signifies seriousness—indeed, solemnity—of purpose. That’s OK. Program directors like seriousness. No wild and crazy guys (or gals) for us, and we appreciate that you care what we think. As they say, you have only one chance to make a first impression, and the first impression has been very good.
An Abundance of Seriousness
Nevertheless, I do have concerns about all that dark wool that clothed our applicants and made them look like clergy. A dark suit is certainly safe, but since I grew up in era when great flannel meant conformity and a dreary and stunted spirit, I like some expression of individuality. My recommendation for the class of 2013 applicants is therefore to lighten up. Add a little color. Make a splash. I guarantee that I will remember you much better if you wear an orange polka-dot tie than a plain-Jane blue and red foulard that Brooks Brothers sells in airports. I anticipate that once interview season is over, the black, blue, or pinstripe suits will go back into the closet and not be seen again until job-hunting time a few years hence.
In my discussions with the current applicant pool, I have been very gratified by their understanding of rheumatology. They seem to grasp the essence of our specialty because, at their core, physicians who want to be rheumatologists like the idea of “being a doctor,” someone who enjoys the doctor–patient relationship in all its variety and likes to rely on old-fashioned skills of the history and physical exam. Even if the ultrasound machine beckons, especially those contraptions that produce whiz-bang multicolor Power Doppler images, I suspect that many—if not most—of the decisions rheumatologists will make now and in the future will result from inspection and palpation of joints. Furthermore, for patients who present with systemic complaints, percussion and auscultation will remain important parts of the diagnostic repertoire.