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Why we teach

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Doctor, as a title, originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning.

The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre — “to teach.”

Teaching is at the heart of doctoring. It is at the core of our daily work. Whether it is teaching a medical student about ear infections, a parent about fever, a resident about asthma or a teenager about healthy living – it is what we do, all day, every day.

Why should we educate future physicians in our offices? At the present time, 32 percent of physicians in the U.S. are primary care providers, of which 12.7 percent are family physicians, 10.9 percent general internists, 6.8 percent general pediatricians, and 1.6 percent general practice.

The current U.S. primary care physician workforce is in jeopardy of continued decline. A review of questionnaires administered to all 2008 medical school graduates revealed that only 17 percent chose any of the primary care specialties as their first choice.

This decreased medical student interest in primary care is caused by multiple factors including the high workload and insufficient reimbursement of this field of practice relative to the earnings of many specialists. The lack of strong primary care role models discourages student interest and the lack of dynamic practice environments contributes to the reluctance to enter primary care disciplines.

Pediatrics has become an outpatient specialty. What does that mean? Thankfully, pediatricians are able to take care of nearly all patients outside of the hospital. What does this mean for medical education? As the focus of healthcare shifts towards office based care, opportunities for teaching in this setting must increase as well.

Patients are often the most effective teachers of physicians. Many patients find the role they play in medical education and training extremely rewarding. Patients, and in our case in pediatrics, parents, can make a young medical student feel comfortable while performing his or her first physical examination. They can teach a student about how their culture or religion effects decisions related to their health. They teach us to be better listeners and learners ourselves.

So the next time you are in an office that teaches our future physicians be reminded of why doctors teach – it is who we are.


Fatema Meah, MD, FAAP  graduated from Albert Einstein Medical School. She continued her pediatrics residency at the same institution and went on to serve as chief resident at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. She is a board certified pediatrician and is an Assistant Professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein. In addition to practicing general pediatrics, she is director of Undergraduate Medical Education at Flushing Hospital.

Peconic Pediatrics, a Division of Allied Pediatrics of New York, is located at 54 Commerce Dr., Suite 2, Riverhead, NY 11901 Tel. 631-722-8880