by Dr. Michael Moody, former board member and medical director at AFMC

Excerpted from Dr. Moody’s 1998 White Coat Ceremony speech at UAMS

Group of Doctors talkingAs we think of the Science of Medicine, your first challenge is to absorb the vast amount of knowledge already in our basic sciences. However, as we move from this millennium into the next, the greater challenge will be to remain current with future advances. ln the provision of competent and appropriate patient care, the physician must continue to study, apply, and advance their scientific knowledge throughout their career. An example of that challenge is the unraveling of the human genome which will open new horizons in genetic and reproductive engineering. This will create dramatic, and often divisive ethical debate and decisions. As quality improvement expert Peter Drucker once said, “…we are entering a period of turbulence, a period of rapid innovation … but a time of turbulence is also one of great opportunity for those who can understand, accept, and exploit the new realities. lt is, above all, a time of opportunity for leadership.” You are that leadership for the science of medicine.

The Business of Medicine was not discussed when I was in school, but managed care has developed new terms like HMO, economic credentialing, and physician disenrollment from provider networks. This has created conflicting incentives for physicians who work for managed care organizations but advocate for their patients. We must let nothing compromise patient-physician communication. Perhaps our most important job is to preserve and revitalize the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship. Our patients will be our most dedicated allies – but only if we are their most vocal advocates.

The Art of Medicine. As in many forms of art, it is difficult to define. Many patients refer to it as “bedside manner” whether at the bedside or in the physician’s office. It is competent medical service with compassion and respect for human dignity. It is your ability to communicate that compassion and respect, not only with words, but with body language as well. Continual advances in medical technology will cause us to struggle more and more with conflicts between prolonging life versus preserving the quality of life. We must always keep the wishes and values of the patient in mind as we make those difficult decisions.

And so, as we consider the science, the business, and the art of medicine, I challenge us to demand high standards of professionalism and ethics that clearly put our patients’ well-being before our own. I challenge us to advocate for our patients even when the system – especially when the system – would make that difficult; and also challenge the system to more adequately meet the needs of all patients.