J. Kevin Dorsey, MD

J. Kevin Dorsey, MD81R-Internal Medicine, 83F-Internal Medicine
Emeritus Dean
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
Springfield, Illinois

What is your hometown?

I was born in New York City but grew up in suburban New Jersey.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I first became interested in science with a chemistry course in high school. The farther I went in my education the more "biological" I became. On graduating from college, I decided to get a Ph.D. in biochemistry because it not only fit with my chemistry background but also seemed to be a good way to make a difference.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?

After ten years, however, I realized that progress was too painfully slow for me and I needed the positive reinforcement of seeing patients get better. I've always been interested in teaching and learning. Because medical education has always been such a high priority at the SIU School of Medicine, it was a natural fit for me.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.?

I have been fortunate enough to win a few awards but the two that stand out as the highlight of my career are the Theilen Award that I received as a third year resident at Iowa and the Golden Apple award for teaching at SIU.

Is there a teacher, mentor or Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

There are two that stand out. The first is Paul Strotmann who taught me how to become a rheumatologist. He was humble and patient and always very supportive of all the rheumatology fellows. I also remember very fondly Dr. Hardin who taught me what it was to really be a physician. I never met anyone who could connect with patients so comfortably as he did. He could sit at the edge of the bed and the history just seemed to flow from the patient. He was another individual whose humility I admired very much. It was only after I had left Iowa and the medical library was being named that I learned he had been the dean earlier in his career.

How or why did you choose the UI for your education and medical training?

When I was touring around the Midwest looking for a residency, Iowa just felt comfortable. The residents seemed to support and care for each other and everyone that I met seemed to care about the practice of medicine. My residency class was composed of individuals from all over the country and they were good doctors across the board. I knew that when I went home at night whoever who was on call would take good care of my patients with the same concern and dedication that I gave them.

What kind of professional opportunities or advantages has your UI medical training provided?

In addition to giving me the requisite knowledge and skills, I think my training at Iowa gave me confidence. I felt that I could be a competent physician caring for even the sickest patients but that I also had learned my limits and knew when to ask for help.

Please describe your professional interests?

As a medical school dean, I have not been able to see patients which is something that I still miss very much. At the present time, the thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is seeing younger faculty succeed and move up the ranks. I still get a chance to teach and this excites me as much as it did 35 years ago. Students enter medical school idealistic and even "pure" in their concern for their fellow man. My concern has been that our training process somehow diminishes the empathy that students had when they began their training. I am still trying to figure out a way to prevent empathy loss during the training process.

What are some of your outside interests?

Because my work results in endless meetings I enjoy the solitude of the golf course or reading a book that has nothing to do with the practice of medicine. However, I admit that I still enjoy reading about physicians and how they practice.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Be fair, work hard, do what you enjoy.

If you could change one thing about the practice or business of medicine, what would it be?

Focus first on improved patient outcomes and secondarily on the business.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Advances in medicine have made it extremely difficult for any one individual to have enough knowledge to be truly an expert. This has led to the phenomenon where a specialist knows more and more about less and less. The old joke used to be that the end point is a person who knows everything about nothing. Unfortunately, my concern is that healthcare has become so fragmented that we have lost focus on the patient as an individual person.

What one piece of advice you would give to today's medical students?

Show patients that you care.

I once saw a bumper sticker that read "Change is good. You go first." Medicine as we practice it today is probably not sustainable. That means that change must come and the only thing I am uncertain of is the shape that it will take. For those of us who trained in the past, I suspect change will be difficult, but for those physicians training in the future, change will probably be woven into their daily lives and I hope that they will have an easier time adapting to it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017