Unexpected opportunities

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 3:45pm

To the Editor,
I am writing to express my thanks to the Block Island community for welcoming me the past two summers and greatly impacting my medical career. As a senior
emergency medicine resident physician at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, the majority of my training has been centered in a busy, urban medical center. While I have received top notch training there, I have found some of the most impactful moments of my training to be located on the island.

Last June, I had the unexpected opportunity to spend a few weeks working at the Block Island Medical Center during the Covid pandemic. What I anticipated as a rotation in an idyllic setting quickly became much more than that. I learned to provide medical care for routine issues while simultaneously learning the challenges of
working on an island and learning when patients need to seek care off-island. I quickly learned to appreciate a clear sky as transporting sicker patients during rain or
fog is much more challenging.
Most importantly, I was reminded of the art of medicine and the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. As young physicians, we are taught in medical school
about the importance of this relationship and knowing and listening to our patients. Yet, all too often, this becomes forgotten during our training as we work in a system where medicine can seem rushed and impersonal. From my first day in the clinic, patients (including many long-time residents) chatted openly with me, and our conversations often drifted beyond medical concerns to their favorite parts of the island or how they came to live here. I believe this led to better patient care, as both parties felt more invested in the interaction.

Throughout the year, I carried my experience of working on the island with me. Amidst a busy shift in the emergency department, I would try to linger for a fewoments with my patients, asking a few questions beyond the requisite information. By doing this, I learned about my patients’ love of Rhode Island, their lives, and more. While this may not make me the fastest doctor, I think it certainly makes me a better one.

This past June, I was fortunate to return to the medical center and had a similar, albeit busier, experience. Thanks to my experience on the island, I look forward to practicing medicine in a more rural setting someday – something I had never considered before my time working here. I know that I will carry this unique experience forward as I finish my residency training and look forward to many visits to the island in the future.

Christina Matulis, MD
Alpert Medical School
of Brown University
Rhode Island Hospital