In defence of the Class of 2011

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 53, No. 4, May 2011, Page 162 Letters

I was disappointed to read Dr Porzecanski’s opinion of the medical students of today (BCMJ 2011;53;114), in follow up to Dr Brian Day’s editorial “Unprofessional professionals” (BCMJ 2011;53:6-7). Dr Day described in his editorial an unfortunate incident that a friend experienced when hospitalized with an acute illness. The incident was regrettable and I hope lessons were learnt. However, for Dr Porzecanski to then use the editorial as an excuse to demonize a whole generation of medical students is unacceptable.

For our students, and particularly the members of the Class of 2011 who are graduating this month, to read that they are perceived as having “serious impairments of empathy, humility, and dedication to patients” and “de­plorable human skills and over-inflated egos,” must be difficult to comprehend. Dr Porzecanski blames them for “our present predicament” without explaining what that predicament is that they are to be blamed for. The students are, in fact, the solution, not the problem, and these inflammatory remarks by Dr Porzecanski must not be allowed to pass without censure. 

Dr Porzecanski retired from practice in 1992. I can only assume therefore that she has not had the benefit or privilege of getting to know our students today. Allow me to enlighten her and reassure her that the dread she expresses of being hospitalized and looked after by “those new physicians” whose employment she decries as a “dismal prospect for all of us in the medical profession,” is quite misplaced.

I have had the privilege of teaching and working with many of the grad­uating class of 2011. A finer group of young men and woman you could not hope to find. They are warm, humanis­tic, knowledgeable, and  multitalented. I have witnessed their compassion and empathy, their commitment and professionalism, and know how concern­ed they are for their patients. 

Many of them volunteer their time both in our urban communities and overseas where they have provided global health leadership in many developing countries. This generation of students is more aware than ever of their importance in ensuring the future of our health care system and, like the dedicated residents they will soon be joining, I know they will not fail us.

I retired this year after over 40 years of practice. The greatest pleasures of my professional life have been the students and residents I have taught and worked with, many of whom have become my friends and colleagues. I have watched them mature into professionals with remarkable skills, com­passion, and integrity. 

I congratulate the Class of 2011 and wish them well as they set out on their chosen paths. The future could not be in better hands and, unlike Dr Porzecanski, I have no dread that when the time comes for me to need their help they will be there for me; I just hope it won’t be too soon.
—Andrew Seal, MS, FRCSC

Andrew Seal, MS, FRCSC,. In defence of the Class of 2011. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 4, May, 2011, Page(s) 162 - Letters.

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