American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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One man's effort to teach cradle-to-grave patient care

By Bryan Walpert

Like other medical students interested in both medicine and pediatrics in the mid-1970s, John Kenneth Chamberlain, FACP, got lucky and stumbled into his future.

It was 1976, and med-peds was such a new field that only four people nationwide graduated from a med-peds residency program that year. The only way students could find out about med-peds residencies was through word of mouth or dumb luck, since no programs were listed in the "green book."

Dr. Chamberlain was interviewing at the University of Rochester for an internal medicine residency when he mentioned his love for both fields-and his struggle to choose between them. That's when his interviewer explained that Rochester had a med-peds program.

Since then, Dr. Chamberlain has helped many med-peds residents train and start their careers, proving to be a mentor and friend. At Convocation Ceremony on Thursday, he received the College's Outstanding Volunteer Clinical Teacher Award for his 20 years of community-based teaching med-peds residents.

He has accepted residents in his office from day one. His first resident eventually became his first partner in what is now a four-physician practice in Rochester, N.Y.

He works with four or five residents simultaneously, accepting a new PGY-1 each year. Residents continue working in his office two half days per week throughout their four years of training. Dr. Chamberlain also offers two- to four-week preceptorships for University of Rochester med-peds residents who have not had the opportunity to work in a private office setting.

Dr. Chamberlain was also instrumental in forming a med-peds section within the American Academy of Pediatrics, and he has worked to form a closer relationship between this group and ACP-ASIM. Those efforts have led to better cooperation on educational and advocacy issues, as well as discounted dues for joint members of both organizations.

Dr. Chamberlain admits that it takes a certain kind of person to love both disciplines enough to take on the extra year of training. "One key to success for med-peds residents is a balanced interest," he said. "If you kind of like pediatrics but really love internal medicine, or if you love pediatrics but only tolerate internal medicine, you probably won't be successful."

One of the greatest pleasures of a med-peds practice, he said, is following patients from middle age to old age, and following their children from infancy to adolescence. The continuity and full-family care that he can provide has led to wonderful relationships with his patients.

Near the December holidays last year, for example, Dr. Chamberlain's final call of the day came from a patient he'd first seen as a toddler. Now an undergraduate in Boston, the patient was calling for advice about applying to medical school.

"It's great to follow people, to watch them develop and grow," Dr. Chamberlain said. "A doctor plays many roles besides healer. You're a mentor, guide and friend."

He said that balance will continue to make the field attractive and viable. "You interact with pediatricians, who are kind, thoughtful, gentle and attendant to children's developmental needs, and you think, 'It doesn't get any better than this,' " Dr. Chamberlain said. Then you interact "with the cerebral, thoughtful, deep internists who seem to know medicine from top to bottom, and you think, 'What fantastic doctors these are, it doesn't get better than this.' You don't want to give up either."

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