My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Dan Woodliff, MD, FACP
Dr. Dan Woodliff jokes that his love for the popular series “The Hardy Boys” growing up and the desire to do detective work influenced his decision to pursue a career in internal medicine. “I always wanted to be a detective, and I think that practicing internal medicine allows you to do a bit of detective work in determining a patient’s diagnosis.”
Dr. Woodliff grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and attended the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi and took science courses at Millsaps College in Jackson. He was drawn to internal medicine during medical school because he enjoyed the “ability to help people solve their medical problems and the ability to build long-term relationships with patients.” During medical school, Dr. Woodliff had a few mentors who impacted his decision to go into internal medicine. “My mentors—Ralph Susler, MD, Max Taylor, MD, and Russell Tarver, MD—were all superb internists and taught me the value of taking a careful patient history and the importance of listening to the patient.”
After residency, Dr. Woodliff joined Internal Medicine Group P.A, a private practice in Jackson where he practiced for 26 years. He watched the practice grow from three to nine general internists. Dr. Woodliff loved building relationships with his patients and also loved the autonomy that private practice affords. “I think internal medicine is a calling. I have treated parents, grandparents, and children in the same family. Patients have an incredible amount of trust in you as an internist, and I think that really is a privilege.”
In 2009, Dr. Woodliff was asked to return to the University of Mississipi School of Medicine as a member of the medical school faculty. He is currently Associate Professor of Medicine in the internal medicine department and is responsible for teaching medical students and residents in the ambulatory medicine clinic.
“Teaching students in the clinic has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. We have very bright, energetic, and inquisitive students, so you really have to stay on your toes. ” Dr. Woodliff oversees medical students as they assess and provide care for patients in the clinic. Each student interviews a patient and conducts a medical history and then presents the findings in the presence of Dr. Woodliff and the patient. He admits that the process can at first be challenging, but it teaches students how to think on their feet and prepares them for the presenting process during residency. “This specific teaching method helps students formulate a differential diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. At first, presenting can be intimidating but once the students realize that it is a safe and welcoming environment, they really enjoy it.”
He also credits his patients for helping the students learn. “The patients have been wonderful; they have been very accepting and are more than willing to participate in the students’ education.”
Dr. Woodliff adapted his clinical teaching methods after attending the Internal Medicine 2010 annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Patrick Alguire, MD, FACP, and Senior Vice President for Medical Education at ACP, made a presentation that Dr. Woodliff thought was particularly relevant to his role in teaching medicine. Dr. Alguire presented “Teaching Medicine: Teaching in the Office” as part of ACP’s Teaching Medicine six-part book series. The series summarizes important medical education literature and shares the collective experience and wisdom of expert medical educators who are actively engaged in teaching medicine.
Dr. Woodliff adapted the teaching methods described in the Teaching Medicine series and uses his teaching model with the medical students and residents in the University of Mississippi Medical Center clinic. “I think it’s a great model for clinic-based teaching. It really helps the students understand the value of interviewing and listening to the patient.”
Although Dr. Woodliff admits that keeping up with the paperwork involved with being an internist can sometimes be difficult, he finds his job extremely rewarding. “I love being able to act as a mentor to the students and residents and help them build their core knowledge in internal medicine.” In addition to his work in academic medicine, Dr. Woodliff is the Governor-elect of the ACP Mississippi Chapter. He became involved with ACP when he was in medical school and previously served on the chapter's Executive Council. As a chapter governor, Dr. Woodliff will implement national ACP projects and initiatives at the chapter level and will facilitate meetings and activities in Mississippi.
Outside of his career and his involvement with ACP, Dr. Woodliff enjoys playing golf and spending time with his wife and their two sons.
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