Karen Nash is a medical reporter and media consultant based in Monroeville, PA.
“I think the main thing is being able to empathize with your patients-simply because a lot of these patients become patients we end up having a pretty long relationship with," says one urologist.
Urology Times reached out to three urologists (selected randomly) and asked them each the following question: What traits are important to be a good urologist?
“I think the main thing is being able to empathize with your patients-simply because a lot of these patients become patients we end up having a pretty long relationship with. As urologists, you become sort of another kind of primary care doctor, and being able to empathize with what they’re going through is pretty important.
Another quality for urologists is to be adaptable. There’s such a large variety of conditions that we treat within our specialty, and there are many approaches available. Urology tends to be on the cutting edge of adapting to new technologies, so I think it’s important to always be able to adapt. Things change very rapidly. So being adaptable and making sure you stay up to date with what is available and what is changing is imperative.
Those are the top two, but virtually any surgeon also has to be able to work hard. The demands on their time can be pretty significant, and I think that’s across pretty much all surgical specialties.
I also think you have to have a sense of humor. In urology, you deal with some issues that can lead to situations that some people might find uncomfortable to talk about, but if you have a sense of humor and keep an open mind, I think that helps.”
Mark Kellerman, MD
Des Moines, IA
Next:"In today’s climate you have to be a very intelligent person"“Obviously, in today’s climate you have to be a very intelligent person. The board scores are going up; USMLE scores are getting more and more competitive to get into urology as a specialty. Beyond that, I think my personal opinion is that it’s a very fun specialty to be in because of the type of people you interact with.
It’s also a very sensitive area, so having a good, strong sense of ethics is very important to be able to understand your patients and their situation, and the sensitivity that comes along with treating patients with genitourinary disorders. Since those implications go beyond just the organ themselves, as they extend to the patient’s spouse, to their marriage, or their partnership with another human being, in large part you’re not just treating a patient, you’re treating somebody else’s spouse or partner. So being very ethical and sensitiveis very important.
Just like anything else that makes any other surgeon good is the appropriate balance between being able to be aggressive, but not take too high a degree of risk with the patients, so you’re able to be an efficient but careful and meticulous surgeon. I think that’s also a very important quality.
I would probably add that in today’s economic environment and medical climate, many urologists are joining practices that are part of larger groups, hospitals, or multispecialty groups. A certain amount of business acumen is absolutely essential to understand how to be successful, how to measure that success, and how to adapt in a constantly changing business and medical atmosphere. For many of us, this knowledge comes by experience, so going to a group that has a good grasp on these issues can get you started on the right foot. Also, there are educational events for physicians seeking further training in this arena that can be very useful.”
Casey Lythgoe, MD
Next: “Probably the most important thing I think is necessary to be successful is to basically have compassion for your patients"“Probably the most important thing I think is necessary to be successful is to basically have compassion for your patients. That’s number one. I would add the word ‘empathy’ to compassion to be able to put yourself in the patient’s shoes and treat them the way you would like to be treated yourself if you were the patient.
Also, you need to be compulsive. In other words, don’t leave any stone unturned. Try to make the diagnosis in a way, and treat the patient in a way, where you look at the patient from every angle, from a medical standpoint, from a social standpoint, and that type of thing.
You also have to keep up with literature and with new techniques.
Also, good communication skills are important. It’s important to communicate with both the patients and with other treating physicians.
I think the characteristics needed to be a good urologist are the same as those needed to be a successful urologist. A successful urologist will be a good urologist who will be able to take care of their patients in an effective, successful way.”
Jeffrey Miller, MD
Boca Raton, FL