Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

BMJ: 324 (7353)

BMJ 2018; 324 doi: (Published 05 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;324:1533

Rapid Response:

What is a good doctor; how to make one?

By Pepi Granat, MD

Our patients -- not we -- are the ones to answer the question, “What
is a good doctor?” Their verdict rings clear every day in the clinics and
hospitals. They vote with their feet, their loyalty, their love, and even
their willingness to heal. We receive that magnetic transmission and
become better doctors because of their faith in us. Our trust in our
patients fuels intellectual and compassionate energies toward a lovely,
symmetrical synergy that is healing and inspirational.

Good doctors are born, not made. Just as Michelangelo understood the
relationship of his choice of marble to his final sculpture, so we must
realize that the good doctors are cooing in their cribs now, waiting to be
delivered to the bedside, only molded, not made by us. Michelangelo
believed that in every stark block of pure white marble a sculpted figure
was trapped, waiting to be released. He trekked far to the Carrara
Mountains to select and transport tenderly his chosen piece. Without
talent and work the David and the Pieta would have remained in the marble,
just as without nurture and modeling our gifted physicians will not burst

At birth, good doctors are endowed with superior capacity for memory,
not just for science and facts retained, ready to think about the
ramifications of a complex case, but to remember names and faces they’ve
seen, nuances day to day, management modifications, resources in
communities, and where to look these up should their innate memory-talent
fail them. They are blessed with superior reasoning ability to put
together pieces of the puzzles of diagnosis and treatment. They are
capable of emotional intelligence: the ability to gauge another human’s
feelings. They are gifted with temperamental qualities that are often
oppositional, yet melded in one individual: patience with efficiency,
strength with compassion, dispassion with warmth, toughness with love.

We must find these special people and make them our doctors. We can
fill their empty slate. We have tried in good faith to do this through our
schooling and entry procedures, but have probably failed at least as often
as we have succeeded. Picking only compassionate people, or only highly
intelligent or prepared people will not do: they will not have the other

As Rumpelstiltskin scoured the countryside until he discovered the
spinner who could turn flax into gold, so we must magically mine our human
quarries to uncover the good doctors lurking in the children of tomorrow.

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 June 2002
Pepi Granat
Private Practice & Univ of Miami Family Medicine and Community Health
No other contributors
7800 Red Road #202 South Miami FL 33143