Rheumatologists who are outstanding clinicians, provide consistently exceptional care to patients and serve as role models for colleagues and trainees are in the spotlight in our Lessons from a Master Clinician series. Here, we offer insights from clinicians who have achieved a level of distinction in the field of rheumatology and who are respected by other rheumatologists for their exceptional clinical reasoning, knowledge across a wide range of medical specialties and patient-centered care.
Ronald J. Anderson, MD, is one such outstanding rheumatologist. Now in his sixth decade of clinical teaching and patient care, Dr. Anderson has spent the majority of his career at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, where he established the clinical rheumatology training program in 1971.
This program has trained more than 200 physicians, many of whom are now rheumatology leaders themselves, both locally and at the national level. These graduates have positively affected the lives of patients afflicted with rheumatic conditions—whether by research, teaching or the delivery of patient care. An ACR Master, Dr. Anderson was honored by the ACR in 2012 as the inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Fellowship Program Director Award. He remains active in teaching and is a Master Clinician Teacher in the Department of Medicine, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The Rheumatologist (TR): How would you define a master clinician?
Dr. Anderson: In a traditional sense, the master clinician is an individual with a library of knowledge and technical skills that explodes at the seams; someone who is always the star participant in clinical pathologic case session and offers unique insights while making rounds or attending clinical conferences.
The process of obtaining this level of competence is somewhat dependent on both effort and intellect. But does it end there? Is this skill the essence of what is required to become a master clinician? Or are we describing a master technician?
Philip Tumulty, MD, in his opening lecture to third-year medical students at Johns Hopkins, would define a clinician as ‘one whose prime function is to manage a sick person with the purpose of alleviating most effectively the total impact of the illness upon that person.’ I agree with this definition and believe one should accept the premise that there will always be other physicians, some as close to a minute’s walk away, who know more about a specific problem than you do.
The reasonable and obtainable goal is to aim at becoming the best physician possible for the specific patient under your care, in other words, a master clinician.
TR: What do you view as the goals for training young physicians?