The Flame asks Uyen-Thi Cao, MD, a member of the Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health, Medical Education faculty, as well as clinical assistant professor and Internal Medicine Clerkship co-director for the Texas A&M College of Medicine, five questions about herself, her time teaching and the future of medicine.
1. What made you want to enter your field?
It started when I was looking for another science class to graduate high school. After I had my first taste of Anatomy and Physiology, I was hooked. When I started medical school, I always thought I would do Family Medicine. By chance, I had my internal medicine rotation as an M3, and while on rotation, I had the “ah-hah” moment.
I feel very fortunate to be able to practice hospital medicine and teach, which is getting the best of both worlds. I read somewhere that when you help one learner, you help thousands of patients. It’s a true honor and privilege to come to work every day and do the work that I do.
2. What do you want residents to remember most about their time with you?
I want them to remember that it is not me that they will learn from the most, but the patient. The patient is always the teacher, and the best way to learn how to care for a patient is to take care of them.
As Clerkship director and IM residency faculty, I have discovered students and residents respond to different styles of teaching. For example, some students really enjoy the Socratic method and look to it as an opportunity or stimulus. Then there are others that do better with written work.
As an instructor, my primary goal is to attempt to adapt rounds to the method that works best for the student, intern and upper level resident, which is often a challenge. My teaching style has evolved over the years, and I am still learning how to coach.
3. What big developments do you see changing in the training of house staff in the next 10 years?
I am hoping there will be more team-based methods of learning. Through the technology we have today, it is easy for learners to access information rapidly. The volume of information is large, and an effective way to learn is to test the application with an experienced physician. The more we learn how to approach and solve a problem, the better we become at helping each individual patient.
4. What is your favorite hobby?
I enjoy reading nonfiction, especially books on learning theory and critical thinking, so that I can try to understand how people make decisions and behave the way they do. One of my favorite books is How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, MD, which explores the different cognitive biases that can occur with diagnosis and management and how to overcome them.
5. What do you believe is one of the most important issues
affecting physicians today?
A predominant topic affecting the physician community today is physician well-being. While it is an honor to serve and be part of the process of healing and comforting, the humanity of it can be enormous. Fortunately, this is being recognized amongst medical groups and resources have been developed to help deal with the stresses and demands of our responsibilities.
I’ve trained at many institutions and am grateful that the culture here at Baylor Dallas is one of the kindest, most compassionate and supportive.
NOTE: This interview was edited for length and clarity.