What's a Successful Doctor?

Whenever one of those "Best Doctors" lists was published I'd ask my physician-dad if he was on it, to which he quickly responded: "No, but I should be." While I respected his confidence, I still wondered what it takes

“Listen to the patient, they’re telling you the diagnosis.”—William Osler, MD

Whenever one of those “Best Doctors” lists was published I’d ask my physician-dad if he was on it, to which he quickly responded: “No, but I should be.” While I respected his confidence, I still wondered what it takes to be the best in medicine.

Say you have two physicians with similar education, training, and experience. If one is much more successful than the other, the obvious question is “Why?” Decades ago, a Carnegie Foundation study of successful people showed that technical skills accounted for just 15% for a person’s success. What counted more, according to the study, was a person’s skill in “human engineering.”

In other words, to be successful, it’s more essential to have a talent for communicating with others and getting along with them. Several years later, according to a US Census Bureau study that confirmed the Carnegie finding, the top traits that employers look for are attitude and communication skills, which are more important to them than training and education.

This premise is borne out by dad’s experience during 50 years of medical practice. He told me that the best doctors where almost always those who cared more about the people then the science. Although I was seldom on the receiving end of his empathy, countless numbers of his patients told me how dad “cured” them just by listening when they need to be heard, and talking when they needed to be told.

I always remember the story of one patient who opened up to my father with: “Doc, I feel lousy” and him replying: “Well, so do I, now tell me what’s wrong.” There’s empathy is spades.

58%Percentage of all US medical school applications that are rejected.(American Association of Medical Colleges)

Read More:

Etiquette-Based Medicine

Making the "Top Doctor" Lists

Want to Be a Rich Doctor?

Understanding Your Patient: Conquering the Communication Gap

The Laws of Success

Keep Patients Safe with Three Questions