Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Great Teachers are Great Listeners
Different teachers have different styles. The good ones communicate well and provide information in ways it can be received and remembered. But the great ones motivate their students every day because they understand what they are going through, and they take the time to learn from their students in the midst of imparting their own vast knowledge.
Charleston VAMC Cardiologist Dr. Valerian Fernandes is one of the greats according to the students at Medical University of South Carolina. He was awarded with his second Faculty Excellence Award (clinical years) in May, an honor given by the medical students.
Now in his eleventh year as Chief of the VAMC’s Cardiac Cath Lab, Fernandes says his teaching philosophy is to help his students keep the faith so they don’t lose sight of their goals.
“I hold them in very high respect just for choosing to come into this field,” he said. To become an interventional cardiologist, medical students must complete a minimum of 11 years of training.
“Most people in this field are there because they love it,” the Mayo Clinic and Baylor University trained expert said. His goal is to keep the love of medicine alive and teach his students to really listen to and understand their patients. He knows that if they learn this lesson they can make the best clinical decisions and get patient buy-in for the treatment plan. That, says Fernandes, is when you get the best clinical outcomes.
“The VA mission is to make healthcare like it should be,” he said, “patient driven rather than investigation driven. We have lots of concerns over spiraling healthcare costs. If we use the patient centered medical home approach and everyone listens to the patient more carefully, we can improve outcomes and improve understanding.”
Listening to patients – the number one lesson in Fernandes’ book – is key.
“The most important decision in interventional cardiology is making a judgment about when to or when not to perform a procedure,” he explained. “Unless you understand the patient very well, you can end up with a beautiful result and a dead patient if they are not compliant.”
Fernandes teaches his students to be detectives not only clinically but interpersonally.
“There are many ways of taking care of patients – stents, bypass or medications - and all can have good outcomes,” he added. A great doctor, according to him, chooses based on what is best for the patient and how the patient wants to live his or her life.
A great teacher teaches this lesson every day.
“The teachers I hold in highest regard, he concluded, “could bring it to the bedside to get students to understand. We can do lots of tests, but the better way to take care of patients is to spend more time with them clinically.”