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Dr. Tomaino's Blog

A Recipe for Success

March 25th, 2013
I participated in an Educational forum this past weekend that addressed throwing-related injuries in baseball pitchers---and Jay Shiner, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Baltimore Orioles shared a message that former manager Earl Weaver used to tell his team during the season:

"I want from you 100% of the things that take no talent."

He was referring to wearing the uniform properly, running off and on the field, being on time or early for practice-----those sorts of things. He contended, Jay shared, that if the players got those things right, then the season would be a success, and playing up to their "talent-potential" would not only happen, but also be fun.

This qoute made me reflect on its potential application to my daily practice--if you will. There is always a balance between our sense of self---our talent and expertise---and a humble appreciation that what our patients may need most is simple compassion and attentive listening---the things that do not require "talent." Too often for those of us who may have earned titles or accolades throughout our careers, we might lose sight of the fact that talent and skill do not mitigate the necessity of the types of talents that do not require intellectual prowess--- ie listening and empathy.

Indeed, if one ever dares to look at the patient reviews site---which is arguably impugned by its anonymous nature---one will find that many of the experts in my field, university professors and world renound surgeons, including myself for that matter, are often criticized for being arrogant and insensitive.These criticisms seem to overwhelm the indisputable talents we possess as extraordinary surgeons.

This is a real wake up call if one cares to reflect on what called us each to become a physician, before our respective fields and cultures may have impacted our own original intrinsic calling---by arguably rewarding those most accomplished with the sorts of things that stroke the ego --titles, grants, awards and accolades--as opposed to rewarding those characteristics that reward the patient.

So---in keeping with Earl Weaver's message to his players, I would say that behavior such as attentive listening, empathy, compassion and kindness are the stuff that we should give 100% of. The rest---our expertise, skill etc ---will be there if we are diligent. Truly resonating with our patients requires more than those talents, however.





We recently had the unfortunate privilege of dealing with multiple doctors and teams of doctors, fellows, and residents at the Cleveland Clinic. Their personalities ran the gamut of all possibilities from cold and reserved to concise yet pleasurable to warm and empathetic. I found that this was independent of age. A couple of the younger fellows were displayed the most compassion while the older could be the more reserved of the group. Most specifically with my husbands surgeon, the more I pushed for his involvement with me he seemed to break down and become a human again, rather than a ‘surgeon’. Unfortunately, the two didn’t appear to be a package deal very often. I noticed the same with the head of the cardiology department. If I simply listened to what he had to say his demeanor remained institutional. The times when I asked questions and shared more information with him he also seemed to lose the wall he had up around him. I suppose it could be said that the doctors seemed to take their cues from the patient and family, rather than showing their warmth and caring up front.

My husband received the best care while there and has nearly completely recovered. Even though I often felt that not much care was being paid to us, I knew that ‘downstairs’ the team was giving him their full attention. I think this is why it may be acceptable for doctors to remain aloof and inside their own heads even though at times the patients would simply prefer a warm smile and a hug.

You keep walkin’ your path Dr. T!

April 2nd, 2013 @ 9:24 am
Maryann Mazzaferro

Dr. Tomaino - keep walkin your path! I totally agree! In the area I live in to find a physician who can combine expertise with compassion seems to be at a rarity. That is one of the reasons I turned to Rochester for my medical needs. Could I have found a better match? You represent not only the finest in medical care and experetise but also demonstrate the compassion to go along with it. Few out there have the "special" ability you have shown. Others can learn so much from your fine example. Yes, those who possess expertise combined with kindness and listening skills is far and few between. You are a guiding light for others to follow and learn from. Thank you for being the physician you are. Rochester is lucky to have you! And so i am I!!!

April 30th, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

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