Edward E. Yosowitz, MD
When he was growing up in Indiana, Edward E. Yosowitz was in awe of a small town GP. "He'd let me go on house calls with him and ask questions for as long as I wanted. He encouraged me to become a doctor. I decided that if I ever had the opportunity, I'd do for others what he did for me."
Yosowitz, 60, has been keeping that promise for 12 years, honoring his mentor by becoming one himself. Every summer, the Houston-based ob/gyn invites four college students interested in medicine to become interns in his practice. Each student is assigned to one of the seven physicians in his group. They also work with the group's four certified nurse midwives.
The students make rounds at the hospital, observe surgery, sit in on patient visits to the office, and watch the miracle of childbirth. They see all facets of a physician's life, including the long hours, the problems in running a practice and being an employer, and hassles with third parties.
"We ask some patients whether they'd mind if the student sits in," he says. "Most love the idea, and we've never had a problem. We know enough not to ask patients who'd probably object. There's an 'elective' part of the internship, too. If a student has interest in another specialty, say, plastic surgery, I'll arrange for him to spend a week with a colleague.
"Many young people think they want to be physicians," says Yosowitz. "But that's theoretical. This program lets them see the tears of joy when a healthy baby is delivered, and hear firsthand from the patient whose cancer has metastasized to her liver and the one who had a miscarriage. The students really respond to the experience in a wonderful way."
Students receive a stipend of $700, paid by Yosowitz and his wife, Brenda. Technically, room and board isn't included, but Yosowitz often puts up a student or two for the summer. Others stay with friends or family. "A couple have stayed with some of my long-time patients," he says.
Each year, about 20 students send applications for the five slots. The students must have at least a B average and solid recommendations from professors. "I'm a one-man admissions committee," Yosowitz says. "It's very informal, and I generally go by my gut feelings. Some students who apply are kids I delivered myself 19 years before. I do tend to favor them.
Most students come from Texas, but we've had several from other states. We don't advertise; they hear about it by word of mouth. I have four daughters who attended colleges around the country, and they encouraged fellow students to apply."
After the summer, Yosowitz asks the students to send him letters reflecting on what they've learned. "I want them to honestly search their feelings about what they witnessed and did, and what they hope to achieve professionally in the future," he says. "I ask them to tell me how they plan to help people, because being a doctor is about giving back to the community. I treasure these letters."
Three out of four of Edward Yosowitz's students have applied to medical school. Of those, 95 percent have been admitted. One is enrolled in a nurse midwife program. "That's especially gratifying."
Mark Crane. Doctors Who Go The Extra Mile: Giving students a taste of medicine. Medical Economics 2002;7:117.