November 2010

Student Doctors: What I Wish I Knew When I Were You, 4 Tips

Student doctors have a great life. I know, I know, the late nights studying, the costs, the tests, and the uncertainty of whether it’s all worth it can be painful. Unfortunately  if you’re like most doctors, you’ll someday look back and say “Those were the good old days!”

I’m different. I say “These are the best of days and so were those.” Since I’m not like most doctors, what advice would I tell you, now that I can look back after 25 years as a very successful holistic family doctor?

Dr Tom potisk speaking to student doctors

Well, recently I fulfilled a dream and was invited to be a guest speaker to a class of student doctors at my Alma mater Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. My topic was basically: What I Wish I Knew When I Were You. Here is what I shared:

#1) Get a clear vision/destination of what you want to attain in your life/career. God is ultimately and thankfully in control, but we are given the gift of using our minds as a tool to help accomplish things. Use it! Spend ample time in a quiet undisturbed place developing a clear picture of what you want. Then right it down. Then post it in places where you would frequently see it such as your mirror, your car’s dashboard, and your desk. And understand that it’s perfectly ok to tweak it as your career progresses.

My friend and fellow author, Leonard Szymczak, authored a book about this called The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace

#2) Access as much experience as possible before and immediately after graduation. Examples: visiting successful doctor’s offices, attending guest speaker presentations, volunteering for short term mission trips, hire on as an associate, keep asking questions to successful doctors, etc. Don’t miss these opportunities! I shadowed over 3 dozen successful doctors, learning invaluable lessons from their mannerisms, their body language, clinical skills, and even how they handled conflict. I dedicated an entire chapter about these doctors in my new book called Reclaim the Joy of Practice: An Advanced Guide for Advancing Doctors. The chapter is called Following Giants. You can order the ebook securely by clicking HERE.

#3) Anticipate and expect difficulties and resistance. A smooth sea never made a successful sailor. Dr BJ Palmer, the famous developer of Chiropractic, painted this statement on his fireplace mantelpiece: You Cannot be Both Comfortable and Grand. Einstein said “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Stand strongly for what you believe in and you are a great spirit and grand!

#4) Keep promoting. We’ve been blessed with  unique and profound gifts as doctors. We’ve got answers that people are looking for.  We are obligated to share it, not only by providing exceptional service, but also by reaching out to those who are misinformed or misled. Keep working on improving your communication skills! I took communication classes through Toastmasters International, Dale Carnegie, and even my local community college.

left to right: Dr Gerald Zelm, Dr Victor Strang (professor of philosophy at Palmer College of Chiropractic), and myself.

Amazingly, nearly 30 years ago I sat as a scared, confused, and anxious student and listened to a guest speaker/field doctor in the very same room where I gave this presentation. I specifically remember deciding that someday I would come back to the college and be a guest speaker, sharing my experiences. Dream big!

I did it; you’re next!


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