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Welcome to The Medicine Mentors interview series. Our mission is to create a platform for top physician mentors to share key insights, traits and best practices based on their experiences to guide medical students and residents.

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Jan 8, 2021

John Pandolfino MD is the Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the Department of Medicine and the Hans Popper Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University. Dr. Pandolfino completed his medical school from Loyola and residency from Northwestern, where he stayed to pursue a fellowship in gastroenterology. He is the President of the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society and an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation. He has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Research Mentor of the Year from the American Gastroenterological Association and Outstanding Mentor Award from the Department of Medicine at Northwestern University.

Dr. John Pandolfino remembers his mentor and role model, Dr. Lewis Landsberg, being the perfect physician. “We never saw him miss a diagnosis or not be right.” Yet, one piece of advice Dr. Pandolfino received from Dr. Landsberg was “Don’t be afraid to be wrong.” And this is a mindset that he has carried with him throughout his career. Today, Dr. Pandolfino reflects how this advice has given him the flexibility to be successful. Instead of fighting and defending a hypothesis which is wrong, Dr. Pandolfino embraces failure and doesn’t hesitate to change course. And it is this agility that gives him the freedom to continuously experiment. After all, the people who make an impact in medicine are those who take a shot.

Pearls of Wisdom:

1. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day. When you enter a patient’s room, you have a job and an obligation to help the patient.
2. To find the right mentor for you, ask yourself, “Is this the person I want to be like when I’m their age?”
3.  When you realize you’re wrong, rather than defend your position, fix the mistake. Have the ability and the agility to change.
4. The difference between a good internist and a great internist is not a matter of knowing facts. It’s the ability to listen to the patient’s story, synthesize it, and come up with the one thing that’s going to be right.

To learn about a patient that changed Dr. Pandolfino's life, visit the Motts 58 Foundation.