Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Adventist Orthopedic Health Network, Los Angeles, California
The Jim Slotnick Fellowship in Medicine is truly an amazing experience that exposes medical students to the difficulties of delivering quality healthcare to the underserved populations of Los Angeles. However, the educational experience delves much deeper than clinical medicine. In order to understand the depth of the Fellowship’s educational value, one must venture back to the origins of the Fellowship: Jim Slotnick, a man for whom the Fellowship is named and a medical professional whose traits helped shape the Fellowship’s mission.
Strong, compassionate, humble, dedicated, loving -- these are words that come to mind when I think of Jim Slotnick. While I never met Jim Slotnick, I felt like I learned a lot about him after reading his memoir, A Short Life. Perhaps there is particular clarity in thought and a different take on life, and death for that matter, when an individual is dying because his memoir provided a poignant insight into his life and experience as a cancer patient. I had the honor of working at the LA Free Clinic as a Slotnick Fellow in the summer of 2007, and Jim’s memoir was often my companion at lunch. Throughout his adventures as a teenager, medical student, and cancer patient, Jim Slotnick embodied what a medical doctor should be long before earning the title of “M.D.” He reminded me to take nothing for granted -- to live life and help others live theirs. His trials as a cancer patient shed light on how difficult it is to be a patient. Jim Slotnick taught me that medical knowledge means nothing if we lose touch with the human beings we are treating.
Far too often in my medical specialty I hear the phrase, “I am just a specialty doctor. My focus is on my particular specialty.” My response to such a statement is, “You are a medical doctor first, and a specialist second.” I would like to think that Jim Slotnick would share my viewpoint. My experience as a Slotnick Fellow showed me that for many patients, navigating their own healthcare can be a daunting task. It is our duty to empower them to make informed medical decisions and improve their access to appropriate healthcare.
I have greatly benefited from my experiences as a Slotnick Fellow, and for that, I am truly honored and indebted to the Slotnick Fellowship.