Joseph G. Cheatham, MD
Joseph G. Cheatham, MD

by Joseph G. Cheatham, MD, Program Director, Gastroenterology Fellowship, Naval Medical Center, San Diego

This article appears in the April/May 2016 issue of ACG Update, the College’s newsletter.

Everyone has stories of those professors, attendings, or colleagues who, while intelligent and skilled, were mediocre as teachers, clinicians or leaders. Despite being well intended, they lacked something; the harder they tried to teach or lead, the more they seem to alienate themselves from the very goals that they intended to achieve. Alternatively, can you think of teachers whose intellectual and skill levels are mediocre but are exceptional clinicians, mentors, professors, and leaders? What is the secret ingredient or the “right stuff”?

As physicians, teachers, and leaders, we are indoctrinated to aspire to and encourage mastery of intellectual and technical skills and to use empathy toward those we are entrusted to treat. Our professional education employs vast resources on the first two competencies, but the last one is up to you to figure out. Some are really good at empathy naturally, while others leave a lot to be desired. However, empathy (a component of emotional intelligence) is twice as important as the other competencies according to Daniel Goleman, a world thought leader and researcher on emotional intelligence. The result of not nurturing emotional intelligence in our profession results in smart and skilled physicians with vast variances in successfully affecting change in patients’ lives, departments and hospitals, and those we mentor.

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