Graduate medical education enriches our health care system

Graduate medical education enriches our health care system

There are moments in each physician’s career that shape the way we approach medicine. Many of those defining experiences happen during residency and fellowship.

The three to seven years (or more) following medical school put a new doctor’s medical knowledge and clinical expertise to the test as they enter into practice under the watchful eye of their attending physicians. At the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, our 235 resident physicians and fellows work in teams at various stages of training and report directly to a fully trained and credentialed attending physician. These faculty attendings are great teachers and respected physicians in their field.

As much as this training period deepens the new physicians’ understanding and practice of medicine, it also enhances the learning and patient care environments in the medical schools where they train. The dynamic between medical student and resident physician without a doubt enriches the student’s experience. Likewise, the leadership skills our physicians-in-training gain from their interactions with the medical, nursing and pharmacy students and staff in the clinics and hospitals are equally important. The rules and regulations surrounding the teaching of these young physicians also strengthen the health care system by demanding research, by staying abreast of cutting-edge technology, by promoting collaboration among health care professionals and by discussion and sharing of ideas.

In the end, residency and fellowship are experiences that lead to well-trained, better-prepared doctors.

Although this past year has been challenging in so many ways, for our medical students and resident physicians at Marshall who are training in the midst of a pandemic, they’ve received the experience of a lifetime. The tentacles of COVID-19 impaired access to care and prompted the widespread use of telemedicine. The practice of telemedicine was integrated into all of Marshall’s 22 residency and fellowship programs. Our physicians-in-training learned to effectively and consistently communicate with family members unable to visit loved ones in the hospital. They experienced infection control first-hand. Now, our young physicians are on the frontlines caring for the mental health, pulmonary and cardiovascular impacts of this disease and helping test and vaccinate our community. These have all been valuable experiences that will serve these doctors, and their patients, for years to come.

I have been so impressed by how our physicians-in-training have risen to each and every challenge during these past 12 months. But, I’m most proud of how they’ve continued to put patient care first. It hasn’t been easy, but for those of us who teach and train resident physicians and fellows, we feel fortunate to be part of molding a young medical school graduate into a competent and autonomous physician in their chosen specialty. As patients, you are a vital part of this training.

So, as we celebrate National Doctors’ Day today, we also celebrate the future of medicine found in these talented physicians-in-training who are preparing to serve our communities for years to come.

This article appeared in the March 30, 2021, edition of the Herald Dispatch.


Paulette S. Wehner, MD

Dr. Wehner is a board-certified cardiologist with Marshall Health and professor at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, where she also serves as vice dean of graduate medical education.