UVA patient Betsy Houston, a freelance writer and editor, contributed this post.
“A debt we can never repay…”
That’s how my husband and I describe our relationship with the UVA Health System. Nearly ten years ago, the doctors and nurses in the hospital saved my life after a massive gastrointestinal hemorrhage. From the minute I was loaded onto the Pegasus helicopter to the day I was discharged eleven days later, we felt like part of a family. While I was undergoing tests and surgery through a harrowing couple of days, we were kept informed of everything that was going on and our options for treatment.
It obviously worked, because here I am a decade later – in my mid-sixties – in probably the best health of my life. We have chosen UVA as our primary care provider even though we still live in Chevy Chase, Md. and Lexington, Va.
So how do we repay that debt? We pay it forward in the fostering of research and clinical training for the graduate medical students known as fellows who will become the attending physicians of the future.
A Win-Win: Helping Doctors Continue Training
My professional career has been devoted to representing science and engineering professional societies. I know how important it is for individuals seeking to advance in their fields to present their research projects to their peers at technical conferences. Medical fellows (doctors who have completed residency and are doing additional training), in particular, need to be able to submit proposals to present and fully participate in such meetings.
The two departments that were most crucial to my treatment and recovery are Gastroenterology and Interventional Radiology. Working through my primary doctors in each of these areas, we have established funds to subsidize travel and other support for fellows to present their work at the premier meetings in their fields. We are very proud that over the past decade many have benefited from this support. The fellows have told us that the experience is invaluable, and at several of these meetings, UVA has been the most represented program – a win-win for both the fellows individually and their departments and the Health System generally.
It’s a “win” for us, too, as we get to interact personally with these young men and women through the course of their fellowships and beyond. We also are investing in gastroenterology education through a guest lecture program and in interventional radiology through an annual grant to enable fellows to secure their own funding for research projects.
Encouraging Medical and Nursing Student Collaboration
Just as important to us is training in clinical medicine. We want the physicians of the future to be as exceptional in patient-family-doctor relationships as those we have been privileged to know. The attending doctors and faculty members are committed to these goals, and whatever we can contribute to this effort we do with enthusiasm and faith in the benefits to future patients. To this end, we are supporting the inter-professional education (IPE) program involving both the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing students in opportunities for collaboration.
The bottom line for us is simple – you cannot be around these young doctors without wanting to do everything you can to encourage their research, relationships with patients and families, and vision for the future of medicine. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and that’s one “germ” that we’re glad to be infected by when we visit the hospital.