My medical school professor was seated in front of me; his long white coat was immaculately pressed and his stethoscope symmetrically draped around his neck. I was a first-year medical student participating in my preceptorship to learn to write and perform an H&P (history and physical exam). Our first encounter a week ago was very positive. His affable demeanor facilitated an easy exchange, distinguishing him from most of my other professors. As I observed and emulated his bedside skills with the patients whom we met, I knew he was someone I wanted to be my mentor.
I was enthusiastic.
On this second encounter, we both saw a patient together. I took a history and performed a physical examination. After briefly discussing my findings with him, I departed to write my H&P. The next week I returned and eagerly handed him my assignment, confident that I aced it. He perused my work and after a few moments, pursed his lips, and let out a plaintive sigh.
“You know, this is a pass-fail class.” He began. “I’m supposed to teach you how to take a medical history and physical. I can pass you but it’s up to you if you really want to learn.”
I was confused.
“What do you mean?”
He shoved my assignment back to me and said, “All you did was read some textbook of medicine and copy down the problem list for this patient’s disease. Most of these problems have nothing to do with the patient. Your H&P was complete but your treatment plan was not relevant for the patient.” His stern visage never wavered. “You can call me a jerk for telling you this. It doesn’t matter to me. But at some point, you have to make a decision. Stop being a student! Learn to be a doctor.”
I was humiliated.
“I’m sorry….” I muttered. “I really worked hard on this.”
He stared at me for a moment. “Look, do this for me.” His tone softened. “Rewrite this, but this time, really address the patient’s problems. I don’t want a textbook description. I want an individualized treatment plan.”
“Yes, sir.” I stuffed the papers into my backpack and shuffled out of his office.
I was humbled.
It was a long, lonely drive home. I thought I was doing well in medical school. However, this incident revealed to me that while I had book knowledge of medicine, I was not integrating it with the patient. I was still a student and not a doctor. When would I learn to make the critical transition?
A week later, I nervously handed my reworked assignment back to my professor. “I’ll read it right now.” He quickly scanned the pages, the rustling papers interrupted the uncomfortable silence in the room. After a few tense minutes, he looked up and handed the papers back to me.
“Better.” A slight smile appeared. “You noted some potential drug interactions that may raise his lipid levels.” The professor said no more but he did not need to.
I was grateful.
That day I stopped being a student and started learning to be a doctor.
The knowledge and skills that one must master for any profession are immense. There is book knowledge that can be memorized. The practical application, discerning how, when, and why to use this knowledge is learned over a lifetime. This is wisdom. How does one acquire this? God, once again, gives us direction through His Word, the Bible. The Bible is not simply a book of information and knowledge. It is wisdom illuminated by God and we need to actively seek it. Once we do, our understanding of what it means to be a child of God begins.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
Proverbs 4:7 (ESV)
I am enlightened.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.