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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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Oct 28, 2020

Robert C. Smith, MD, MACP is University Distinguished Professor and a Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Michigan State University.  With many publications, awards, and strong grant support, he has been involved in teaching and research in patient-centered communication and in primary care mental health since 1985. Dr. Smith has been featured on The Today Show as well as interviewed and quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesElle, the Ladies Home JournalTime, and Newsweek. The topics have included training doctors to establish better doctor-patient relationships, chronic pain, unexplained physical symptoms, and mental health problems in medical settings. Dr. Smith and his colleagues have written one of the most popular interviewing textbooks, Smith’s Patient-Centered Interviewing: An Evidence-Based Method (3rd edition, McGraw Hill, 2012); the 4th edition, published July 2018, as well as a second textbook, Essentials of Psychiatry in Primary Care:  Behavioral Health in the Medical Setting.

Think back to the last time you were in the room with a patient. Were you listening for emotional information? If you need to strengthen this muscle, keep listening. Because today, Dr. Robert C. Smith teaches us the utter importance of stopping—and listening. As Dr. Smith explains, diseases are not just physical ailments: We must also recognize and address the psychological impacts of them as well. On that note, Dr. Smith also reiterates the necessity of a health work/life balance. As physicians, we need to develop interests outside medicine. We also need to find support from empathetic people (because we need to be listened to, too). Finding ways to reawaken our emotional intelligence and humanity will find its way back into the hospital—for the better.

Pearls of Wisdom:

1. In order to develop a stronger learner-teacher relationship, the key is listening for emotional information. We must address the psychosocial components of disease, not just the disease itself. (Remember NURSE: Name it, Understand it , Respect it, Support it, and be Empathetic)
2. Maintain a healthy work/life balance: To prevent burnout, we must have other interests outside of work, and we must make time for ourselves.
3. Anticipate challenges. And when faced with those challenges, approach them with an open mind, and consider the psychological components and impacts of each situation.