If We Do Not Prepare Tomorrow’s Physicians – Who Will?

Posted on October 25, 2018

Gary RothIt’s a day that sticks with every heart surgeon – the first time you’re given the responsibility to operate “on the right side of the operating table.” Few experiences replicate that emotional rush of anxiety, excitement and adrenaline. For me, it was Anthony Fabaz, DO, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Ingham Medical Center (now known as McLaren Greater Lansing), who entrusted me with the responsibility during my cardiac, thoracic and general vascular surgery fellowship. I still remember his words, “You are doing this case, go to the right side of the table.” I was nervous, but confident, as after all, my mentor was only inches away from me. Thanks to Dr. Fabaz, I received just the push I needed during my medical education to take that next step in my pursuit of caring for others.

In Michigan, more than 7,000 medical school graduates are currently working at teaching hospitals, community clinics and research laboratories. Countless physicians and surgeons are filling roles like Dr. Fabaz, serving as teachers, role models and mentors to the next generation of physicians completing their graduate medical education (GME). These formal, hospital-sponsored or hospital-based training programs are for individuals who have completed medical school and earned an MD or DO degree. With funding provided by the training institution and the state of Michigan, it includes residency, internship, fellowship, specialty and subspecialty programs.

This funding is critical in the foundational development of the next wave of healthcare providers. All Michigan hospitals have an ongoing need for qualified, skilled clinical practitioners, and GME funding plays a critical role in filling these positions. As I began my fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery, I was not only provided with the opportunity to become a heart surgeon, but I was given the privilege of caring for people during one of their times of greatest need and extreme vulnerability. Yes, I learned the didactic and technical aspects of becoming a surgeon, but the most crucial teachings were the cognitive lessons. How to be a professional, how best to care for the patient post-operatively and how to communicate with the patient and family.

One of the earliest and most important lessons I learned occurred during my general surgery residency at Botsford General Hospital (now Beaumont Hospital, Farmington Hills). Thoracic surgeon Earl Hecker, DO, taught me that as a surgeon, you’re responsible for the management and care of your patient and are not simply a consultant. That no matter our specialties, we are all doctors and not just surgeons. This is an important lesson that can’t be taught in a classroom, but must be demonstrated at the bedside, emulated and refined daily.

Because of men and women like Dr. Fabaz and Dr. Hecker, Michigan has become a national leader in medical education. Our state ranks sixth in the number of medical residents on duty and fourth in the nation in the number of teaching hospitals. The investment of public funds strengthens our residency programs and enriches our communities by providing jobs and encouraging research, technology and investment while delivering much-needed care to patients throughout the state.

When I think about the importance of GME funding, I remember: as a patient, I need someone to care for me. As a husband, I need someone to care for my wife. As a father, I need someone to care for my children. As a son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend; I need to know there is someone to care for my loved one. If we do not prepare tomorrow’s physicians to care for us – who will?

Gary Roth, DO, MBA, FACOS, FCCM, FACS, is Chief Medical Officer of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.


  • If We Do Not Prepare Tomorrow’s Physicians – Who Will?

Tags: mha rounds, Gary Roth, GME

Posted in: MHA Rounds

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