2009 Scholarship Recipient

Michael G. Fitzgerald, MD, 2010

Michael Fitzgerald, MD

Michael G. Fitzgerald's Winning Essay

My father is an orthopedic surgeon in rural Western New York and growing up I heard many stories about his work and his patients. In one instance, my father traveled out to the middle of farm country to help a young Amish boy who had broken his leg while tending to a horse. My father learned a few simple words in German in order to be able to communicate with the boy, and eventually he was able to diagnose his problem and treat him accordingly. My father's payment was a hand-made quilt, which he only accepted because the family insisted. He gained the respect and friendship of the boy's relatives, and when he sees them in passing they are always extremely grateful for his kindness.

In another instance, my father took some extra time to sit and talk with an elderly patient in his office. To his amazement, he found out that she was a survivor of a concentration camp in Nazi Germany and had lived through the Holocaust. Knowing that my father was a WWII enthusiast, the woman later gave him a book she had written on the subject and at subsequent visits, they would talk about her experiences in the war. This friendship is something my father may not have been privileged with had he not taken a few extra minutes to speak with her at the end of the original visit.

As a medical student, people have often asked me why I want to be a doctor. For me, the answer is simple. I want to be a doctor because of my dad. I have always been amazed by my dad's work, not only because of his ability to implant total joints and reconstruct bones, but because of the close-knit relationships he has cultivated with many of his patients. For me, he defines compassion and the examples he has set for me are how I plan to treat my patients everyday I am in practice.

Growing up, I assumed most people had great relationships with their physicians because of the admiration and respect I saw in the eyes of every one of my father's patients. It has always bothered me that some people grimace in disapproval when I tell them that I want to go into orthopedics, automatically assuming that bedside manner is the required trade-off for the privileges of the operating room. As a new surgeon, I hope to change that mentality, one patient at a time.

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