Ross University Blog

DEAN'S BLOG: Are We Getting Used to Interrupting—and Being Interrupted?

November 30, 2016

Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine

Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine

This blog entry was written by Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine.

I’m a little irritated when I turn on the news and all I hear are three or four people all talking over each other. I want to hear a discussion, an argument, a counter-argument. It’s important to get varying viewpoints on important issues, but not all at the same time, so that not a single voice can actually be heard or understood. Lately the voices are increasingly more strident, the tone is less civil, and the words are uglier. This election season may have ramped up the noise and rudeness, but the underlying phenomenon is a reflection of an insidious, rather than an abrupt change in our society. What has happened to respectful discourse and debate?

Today’s teens and young adults have grown up in a digital world where they are continually interrupted by media on their devices, and all of us adults have had to keep up with this reality, but at what cost? A recent study found that the average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. The widely publicized Microsoft-sponsored research, published in 2015, surveyed 2,000 adults and monitored the brain activity of 100 others. The conclusions painted a grim picture of the impact of digital technology on attention spans across all age groups and genders. With an average attention span of 8 seconds, humans have taken a back seat to goldfish, which have an average attention span of 9 seconds.

We are constantly checking our devices. They ping and buzz continually. We tweet, post, and IM throughout the day and night, and we are aware of every message that pops up. These are all multiple interruptions when we are trying to read something or to compose a reply or to have a conversation with a friend. There’s no time to think. I’m not a Luddite decrying the modern world. As a physician and medical educator I am well aware of the boon to communications and learning provided by technological innovations, and as Dean and Chancellor of Ross I’m engaged in working with faculty and staff to bring more educational technology into our curriculum, to better serve our students and help them succeed.

Still, living with multiple interruptions in an era when we seem to have less time than ever before is having a profound effect on us and on our interactions with each other. The doctor-patient relationship is not immune. Doctors are in a hurry. They may not have enough time to sit down with patients, look them in the eyes, listen to their concerns and answer their questions. It makes it difficult on the patient to tell his or her story. “I got up, I felt faint,” the patient says. The doctor has constraints on his or her time, stares at his computer screen rather than the patient and has no time to listen patiently or have a discourse, so the doctor interrupts. “Did you feel dizzy or did you feel that the room was spinning?” the doctor asks, trying to get to the cause of the symptom quickly. The meeting may be short and the patient may walk away in a state of confusion.

We recognize the critical importance of teaching future physicians how to talk to patients. One of the biggest changes in medical education in the last two decades has been the introduction of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE®) Step 2 CS in 2004. This exam, which medical students must pass in order to become physicians, includes a component on Communication and Interpersonal Skills. Individuals who cannot sit down and make a connection with a patient will fail the exam. This seems like progress in recognizing the need to test future doctors on this skill. However there is disconnect between wanting to test on it and actually organizing physician practices so they do have the time to listen and talk to their patients.

How do we work on paying attention, listening patiently, and waiting respectfully for our turn to speak? How do we organize our work and incentives to allow for this? Are physicians of the future willing to get paid less but practice closer to their idea of how a physician should behave?

Let’s think about that.

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Tags: Leadership

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EXPERT: Alum Shares Travel Tips for People with Diabetes

November 23, 2016

Planning ahead can save you lots of stress when it comes to managing your diabetes while traveling.

Planning ahead can save you lots of stress when it comes to managing your diabetes while traveling.

It’s officially the holiday season in the U.S., which for many people means one thing—travel. And for those who have diabetes, it can be a real headache: About 10 percent of people with diabetes experience problems with diabetic control while traveling.

Fortunately, a little extra planning can help keep potential issues at bay. For National Diabetes Awareness Month, endocrinologist Michael Marchese, MD (Ross Class of 2009) shared travel tips for people with diabetes—whether you’re going by air, sea or anything in between. Here’s a sampling:

  • Before you go: If you’ll be crossing time zones, you may need to adjust the timing of your insulin injections. Insulin pump users may consider changing to injections while on vacation, especially if vacationing at the beach, since not all pumps are waterproof and the sun may heat up the insulin inside it.
  • Packing for a flight: Don’t store your insulin in your checked luggage: The cargo hold can get very cold or even freeze, which would make the insulin ineffective.
  • Going somewhere warm? Avoid walking around barefoot on beaches. Sharp shells, bottle caps and similar items can cut your feet, which is a particular threat to diabetics who have peripheral neuropathy, a condition that results in a lack of sensation on the bottom of the feet. Without feeling, a cut could go unnoticed until it’s infected.

Read the full article at WestchesterMagazine.com.

Dr. Marchese is board certified in internal medicine. After graduating from Ross University School of Medicine, he completed a residency in internal medicine at Stamford Hospital, where he was Chief Resident, followed by a fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Albany Medical Center. He practices at the Diabetes, Osteoporosis and Metabolism Center of Phelps Medical Associates in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

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Tags: Alumni , Expert , Diabetes , New York , Endocrinology

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ALUMNI: Debunking the 'Doctor Type'

November 16, 2016

Kyle Evers, MD (Ross Class of 2014), internal medicine resident at Memorial Health in Savannah, GA

Kyle Evers, MD (Ross Class of 2014), internal medicine resident at Memorial Health in Savannah, GA

Sometimes, your greatest obstacles can be in your own head.

Take Ross grad Dr. Kyle Evers. Throughout high school, he had a strong interest in the sciences and a natural desire to help people. Yet when thinking about his future career, medicine barely crossed his mind as a possibility.

Why? He didn’t fit his own notion of “the doctor type.”

“In my mind, doctors were people who never had to study—those kids who got straight A’s without even trying,” Dr. Evers explains. “That wasn’t me. So I didn’t really consider myself a future doctor.”

Today, Dr. Evers is a third-year resident physician in internal medicine at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. It’s safe to say his views on who can be a doctor have expanded—along with his confidence in himself.

Discovering His Passion

When I ask Dr. Evers why he chose internal medicine, he says he loves the diversity of it—and begins ticking off all the different specialties he enjoys. Rheumatology. Nephrology. Gastroenterology. Cardiology. Endocrinology.

“My intern friends would joke that I wanted to specialize in everything, because when starting each new rotation, I would change my mind and decide that one was my favorite,” Dr. Evers says with a laugh. “I just wanted to do everything.”

It might seem hard to believe that someone with such an obvious affinity for medicine could have ever doubted his potential in the field. But Dr. Evers had discounted medicine since his teenage years, and it wouldn’t resurface until he was majoring in biology at LaGrange College. Recognizing his talent, a few of his professors encouraged him to reconsider the career he had long since dismissed.

“I kind of laughed it off at first, but then it became this recurring idea,” says Dr. Evers.

So he did an internship with a general surgeon in his college town. Then, he got a job as an orderly in the operating room, where he worked during his last year and a half at college. “That sealed it,” says Dr. Evers. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor.”

A Diverse Perspective

Dr. Evers chose Ross for a few reasons, including residency placement rates and overall reputation. In addition, he was intrigued by the option to choose either a single location for his clinical clerkships or experience multiple hospitals throughout the country.

“I love to travel and being able to experience new cultures, so being able to do that while getting a medical degree was a no-brainer,” says Dr. Evers.

Sure enough, during his clinical year, Dr. Evers took advantage of the option—getting a taste for medicine in Miami, New York, Cape Cod, Connecticut and Michigan.

His favorite? Miami. (“I love the culture and the bilingual nature of everything—and there’s amazing food.”)

“You can learn medicine anywhere if you’re willing to study. The real difference is the environment and the experiences,” says Dr. Evers. “That was the key benefit for me. If you work at only one place, you may think every hospital operates like that, but if you move around, you quickly realize how different hospital systems are. And each system has its strengths.”

Making a Home

His rich background across many hospitals helps him appreciate his residency hospital, Memorial Health, that much more.

In particular, Dr. Evers was struck by the “family atmosphere” he sensed at Memorial. During his interview, he was impressed by the interaction between residents and attending physicians. Not only did they stay after meetings to chat, they clearly made an effort to get together outside of work as well. 

“It was very comfortable, very warm,” he says. “It’s a very personal environment.”

That environment is good not only for having friends outside of work—it’s a key factor in helping the hospital run smoothly. Dr. Evers credits the friendly atmosphere with fostering open communication that’s led to great relationships across residency lines.

“Here, the staff is dedicated to patient care and diligent in their jobs,” says Dr. Evers. “It takes a lot of pressure off residents.” 

And it’s clear that the feeling goes both ways.

“Dr. Evers is one of our most exceptional residents,” says Dr. Timothy Connelly, associate residency program director at Memorial Health. “I’m grateful for his awesome contributions to our program.”

The Real Doctor Type

Today, that high school student who thought he wasn’t the “doctor type” seems a world away from this dedicated physician who’s enamored with his work and singularly focused on patients.

Dr. Evers says he can’t imagine himself doing anything else.

“Even if I had a billion dollars and didn’t have to work, I’d still want to do this job. I can’t think of anything more perfect for me,” he says.

In fact, while some of his medical school classmates are earning their MBAs or have an eye towards management in the future, Dr. Evers couldn’t be happier exactly where he is.

“I don’t have administrative aspirations,” he says. “I just like taking care of people.”

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Tags: Georgia , "Internal Medicine" , Alumni , Residency

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ALUMNI: 40-Year-Old Med Student Overcomes Obstacles, Inspires Others

November 15, 2016

Joyce Haynes Busch, Ross Class of 2016

Joyce Haynes Busch, Ross Class of 2016

  •  “You’re almost 40. Who would decide to go to medical school at this age?”
  • “You should be thinking about retirement.”
  • “I see you’re wearing a wedding ring. I don’t see how you can go to medical school with a family.”
  • “You military people think you can do anything. The fact of the matter is, you can’t.”

This was just some of the crass opposition that Joyce Haynes Busch, MD (‘16) remembers getting when she decided, at age 38, to apply to medical school. “They didn’t know me, and already they labeled me as a failure,” she remembers.

In fact, the opposite was true.

After serving in the United States Air Force, Haynes Busch built herself a successful career as a mortgage broker. But when she got married and moved from the Dallas, Texas area to Houston, she realized she would need to restart her business from the ground up in a brand new city. Considering she’d have to go back to square one as a broker, she figured she might as well begin at square one in the career she always dreamed of: medicine. Her new husband, who at the time had two young children from a previous marriage, supported her in her decision to start taking medical school prerequisites full-time.

Then, a devastating blow: Haynes Busch’s husband received a terminal cancer diagnosis. “I was taking care of him, looking after the two boys, and taking classes at the same time,” she says. “He passed before I was accepted to Ross.”

Pressing On to Achieve Her Dream

Unwilling to let the naysayers stop her and committed to achieving her dream of becoming a physician, Haynes Busch decided to press on—in a very public way. “I thought I’d document my journey on a blog, and prove the opposition wrong,” she says. “And, maybe motivate myself along the way.”

In hundreds of posts, Haynes Busch documents her path on the blog she calls "A 40-Year-Old Medical Student.” Her earliest posts are dated 2008, when she first started meeting with admissions counselors and taking prerequisites, and it follows her path taking the MCAT, applying and becoming accepted to Ross University School of Medicine, her journey through medical school, and, finally, matching as a family medicine resident at the University of Arkansas earlier this year. She ends nearly every post with a call to action: “Now go live your dreams!”

Why? “I have found that so many people find so many excuses why they can’t,” she says. “I have encountered so many obstacles in my own path: taking care of my husband who did ultimately pass, adopting two sons, meeting opposition about going to medical school. So, here I am, trying to do all this and at the same time live my dream. I’m determined to live that dream.

“My message is that you cannot sit back and let excuses stop you,” she continues. “I started telling readers to live their dreams because you must love your life. Whether it’s being a schoolteacher or taking a painting class, whatever your dream is, go and do it. You only live once and you must not take it for granted. As I once told my uncle who was worried about money: I have my husband’s wallet. I have his shoes. I have all of his clothes. You cannot take it with you. You have to live for today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.” 

And She's Just Getting Started

This message resonates with readers from all over the world. Some tell her that they’ve been following her story for years; others report stumbling on the blog and binge-reading all of her posts in just a few days. But, now that she’s graduated, the blog platform doesn’t quite seem to fit. After all, she is no longer a medical student, as the title suggests.

Haynes Busch says her message may find a home in a new blog, or she may start pursuing speaking engagements at women’s conferences or high schools. But, no matter how she chooses to move forward, Haynes Busch is committed to healing the community through medicine and through her story, she says, “which is a story of victory and triumph and overcoming obstacles...and I’m just getting started.”

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Tags: Alumni , Texas , Residency

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STUDENTS: This Ross Student Was a Winner at ACP

November 14, 2016

Fourth-year Ross student Melissa Woo

Fourth-year Ross student Melissa Woo

Fourth-year Ross student Melissa Woo was selected as the single, top overall student winner of the medical student poster presentations at the American College of Physicians (ACP) Michigan Chapter Annual Scientific Meeting held on October 1 in Acme, Michigan. The title of her poster is Alcohol Withdrawal or Stimulant Overdose: CIWA to the Rescue.

CIWA, or Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol, is a well-validated scale that was created in the 1980s and it is used to quantitatively and reliably assess and re-assess the severity of acute alcohol withdrawal and to help determine and adjust its management.

Melissa, who earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, will now be going on to the ACP National Internal Medicine Meeting in San Diego to present the same winning poster. That event will be held from March 30-April 1, 2017. Melissa is currently finishing her rotations at Cleveland Clinic Florida. She applied for MATCH℠ 2017 for Internal Medicine.

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Tags: Research , Students

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ACADEMICS: Second-Year Ross Student Presents at AMSA Conference

November 07, 2016

Second-semester Ross student Doan Nguyen

Second-semester Ross student Doan Nguyen

Congratulations to second-year Ross student Doan Nguyen on delivering a popular presentation at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) conference held in Puerto Rico on Oct. 15 and 16, 2016. Doan was invited to lead a session titled Arterial Blood Gas Sampling and Identification. More than 200 people attended this presentation.

The highlights of the AMSA conference include bringing together physicians-in-training and expert facilitators. Attendees spend two days exploring current issues in medicine, building clinical skills, and connecting with peers.

Doan earned a BA from University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam and BS degree in respiratory care from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Texas. He is currently a licensed respiratory therapist, and had practiced in this field for nine years before enrolling in medical school at Ross.

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Tags: Academics , Research , Students

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