My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Doron Schneider, MD
“I saw an opportunity and went for it,” says Doron Schneider, MD, about the start of his career at Abington Memorial Hospital, just 20 miles outside of Philadelphia, PA. As a young physician looking for the right opportunity, Dr. Schneider liked Abington from the start, and they liked him back. Now twelve years later, he has a diverse career that has included many titles: physician, safety and health care quality director, assistant professor, internal medicine program director, and health care reporter among them. Dr. Schneider has worked hard for all of it, with much drive and focus and a healthy dose of emotional depth.
The Different Shades of Joy
“Bedside care brings me a tremendous amount of emotional pleasure because I can really feel the core of humanism,” he says about his role as an internist. “In my job I’ve learned to help people through both their tragedies and their joys, and that’s what really keeps me going.” One such instance he says had happened just that day, with a patient who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Since the man was still an in-patient at Abington, Dr. Schneider paid him a visit in room 231, during which he promised the patient that he would do everything he could, from helping him navigate the health care system to finding a specialist. “What I told him was, ‘We’re going to go through this together. I’m not going to know all the answers, but I will be with you the entire way—making sure you get the best care and see the best specialists. And after you see them, I will help you decipher that care.’”
The 40-year-old from Dresher, PA was born in Israel but grew up in northern New Jersey. After graduating from Emory University, he completed his internship and residency at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. At Abington, he is the deputy program director of the internal medicine residency program. He is also an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University School of Medicine and the founder of Community 2000, a community outreach and educational program in Newark, N.J. sponsored by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Like many physicians, even after all of the training and preparing, his truly meaningful experiences treating patients have been learned on the job.
As an example, he talks of another experience that affected him in unexpected ways—losing a 45-year-old patient to asthma. “I’ve never cried so hard for a patient,” he recalls. “It was rewarding to get into touch with my emotions.” Dr. Schneider advocated relentlessly for the patient, trying to use his knowledge of the health care system to get the patient the best care, even at one point steering him towards a different healthcare system to see a top specialist. Sadly, the patient eventually passed, but Dr. Schneider’s work did not end there. As he explains, an internist can play an important role at the end of someone’s life and beyond. “At that point you are really healing the family,” he says. “When I went to the funeral, the wife and family hugged me and told me how much they appreciated what I had done for him. They are patients of mine still. My involvement with this family is an example of how as an internist you can feel both the joy and the sadness.”
Eye on the Ball
In the recreational soccer league comprised of fellow Abington colleagues, Dr. Schneider plays either forward or center. He likes being part of a team, and says team-based care is the future of internal medicine. “The whole model is going to change I think,” he says. “We’re starting to see more of a team emphasis … I think the new wave of internists will be able to gain a new sense of satisfaction from being able to function in that role … to see that the whole show doesn’t depend on them.”
In addition to his clinical care, Dr. Schneider works as the director at the Center for Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality at Abington, founded two years ago. He says the role allows him to use innovation and creativity to problem solve. “There are a lot of problems in health care and you need creative solutions,” he says. “The safety and quality work is very satisfying because I get to use my out-of-the-box approach in a manner that’s very freeing.” He adds how the work entails working across departments and disciplines. “I love how you have to have relationships across the hospital—it’s a web of relationships which I think is at the core of internal medicine—whether you’re trying to heal a health care system or a patient.”
One area he enjoys especially is the internal medicine residency program. He says residents are always pushing him and his peers to the next level of performance. “They are always going to ask the hard questions,” he says. “Being able to share your knowledge and experience with students and residents and help them grow as future clinicians is really tremendous, because you can see the beauty of the profession and how you can make a difference.”
Going for It
In addition to his talent for kicking soccer balls and treating patients, Abington has found another skill of Dr. Schneider’s that they have put to use: public speaking. When the hospital coordinated a series of community lectures on health related issues, Dr. Schneider, naturally articulate and expressive, was a perfect fit. This led to another opportunity when some time later, ABC Philadelphia affiliate Channel 6 approached area hospitals in search of a health reporter. Abington recommended Dr. Schneider and he got the job. He participates when time allows. He cites it as an example of the many interesting choices open to internists. “They were interested in me because I’m an internist,” he says. “I like that I’ve chosen a different career path that’s allowed me to have different challenges every day. It’s extremely rewarding to get out of bed every morning and never know what you’re going to face.” All of his professional activities he says, no matter what the setting, hold the same purpose for him. “I’m able to say that I can impact care, whether I’m at the bedside delivering one-on-one care to a patient, or working across the system to put policies and procedures into place that look at care and improve it.”
He complements his career with much valued down time, which he spends with his wife and four children, and by staying busy with jogging, playing soccer, or playing the saxophone. While accomplished, he comes across as grounded and self-deprecating. When asked how his friends or family would describe him he replies, “I guess they would say I’m kind … and that I try to be funny. Sometimes I think I’m funnier than I am.” But while his sense of humor might be of some debate, it seems no one would dispute his sense of duty as an internist, most of all his patients, who likely take comfort in knowing that their doctor will stand by their side, even when he is no longer obligated to do so. In fact, it seems Dr. Schneider makes the most impact in these moments, like the afternoon he made the decision to turn into room 231, rather than continuing to walk down the hall.
Check out previous articles as physicians share what motivated them to become physicians as well as why they chose their particular type of practice.
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