My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Officer Profiles: David A. Fleming, MD, MA, FACP & Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP
1. I was born and raised . . . in Moberly, MO, a small rural community of about 13,000 in North Central Missouri.
2. As a child I was . . . very active. I spent a lot of time outside, was involved in sports, music, church, and Boy Scouts. As the youngest of four siblings, I learned how to be nimble and run fast, which kept me out of trouble and helped me do well in sports.
3. I first decided to be a doctor . . . when very young. My father and great uncle were both internists in my hometown and were amazing role models for me. I saw how hard they worked and loved listening to their stories. They were incredibly knowledgeable and had very special relationships with their patients. Their gift of service was like no other. I knew I wanted to be like them.
4. The persons who influenced me the most . . . when I was young—my amazing parents, grandparents, and great uncle (“Uncle Doc”), but also my football coach, Jerry Bolan. All of them taught me the importance of honesty, commitment, and hard work. In later years, I was influenced by several mentors: Dr. Roger DeRoos, my histology and endocrinology professor during my undergraduate years who encouraged me to embrace the wonder and importance of knowledge; Dr. Charles Mengel, my chair of medicine in residency, who later joined me in practice for several years, and who taught me to be an internist, to continue learning, and pay meticulous attention to detail; Dr. Dan Winship, another mentor in residency with whom I formed a deep and abiding friendship over the years, who introduced me to bioethics, taught me the importance of passion, commitment to ideals, and how to always land on my feet; Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, my mentor at Georgetown with whom I also formed a deep friendship, and who opened the scholarly world of bioethics to me, taught me how to write and argue well, and in doing so, changed my life forever; and of course, my wife and soul mate, Dr. Karen Edison, who continues to believe in me, who challenges and encourages me to be fearless, and on a daily basis shows me how deeply one can love and at the same time deploy the amazing gift of a brilliant mind (hers).
5. I chose internal medicine because . . . of the rigorous training, the depth and breadth of knowledge, and the skills required to be an internist. I knew I was going to do primary care in a small rural community following residency and I wanted to be well-trained and prepared for the complexity and intellectual challenges that followed. Being an internist has given me numerous opportunities—to care for very complicated patients, to serve as a leader at multiple levels, and become an effective clinician educator. I have always felt that internists are the “Delta Force” of medicine, the ones who get called in when things get complicated. A bit theatrical perhaps, but I have actually found this to be true in both private and academic practice and have never ceased to be challenged and fulfilled by my profession.
6. What I find most rewarding about my career . . . is that I have been able to do so much with it. I have enjoyed a long and very fulfilling practice as a general internist, geriatrician, and clinician educator. My greatest reward over the years has been the healing relationships I have had with patients and the mentoring relationships with students, residents, and colleagues. Being an internist is an amazing profession.
7. I’m good at what I do because . . . I have been trained well and I have been mentored well. Those who have gone before have shown the way.
8. I joined ACP because . . . it is the professional organization that represents the ideals of internal medicine as a profession. This organization, like no other, has offered me the opportunity to advocate for substantive issues at both the state and national level, teach and participate in lifelong learning, to be a mentor, and provide leadership at many levels.
9. An award I am most proud of . . . is the Jane Hickman Teacher of the Year Award that I received a few years ago in recognition of my efforts in medical education. It is an honor to be recognized in this way by my colleagues and peers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. The professional accomplishment I am most proud of is building and leading a strong internal medicine group in my hometown that served the community for many years, and the personal accomplishment I am most proud of is fathering two amazing children who have since graced our lives with 5 (soon to be 6) grandchildren.
10. My advice to medical students is . . . keep your eyes on the ball, stay nimble, and always find a way to land on your feet. You are one of few who have the physician’s mantle placed on your shoulders. It can feel heavy at times, but it also enables and empowers you—use your powers prudently and with compassion. Let the mantle serve as a reminder of the gift you have been given to serve and of the special place you hold as a physician.
11. I like people who . . . move forward with confidence and kindness toward others, and who are prepared.
12. Our family includes . . . two adult children, five (soon to be six) grandchildren, my mother-in-law, our “little” yellow lab Tessa who has never met a stranger, and many dear friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
13. My interests/hobbies include . . . exercise, skiing, hiking, reading (biographies, history, and fiction), and sharing good food and wine with friends and family. My wife and I love to cook. I also love to travel and experience new lands, people, and cultures.
14. If I had the time . . . I would like to become fluent in Spanish and French and I’d like to learn how to cook well.
15. I enjoy listening to . . . NPR, a good lecture, memorable stories, and music (mostly classical).
16. I enjoy watching . . . a good movie, sports of any kind, and public television (Masterpiece Theater, travel and cooking shows).
17. My idea of a great vacation is . . . one that allows me to be with family and requires me to be active. I particularly like trips that offer biking, skiing, or hiking.
18. Something others may not know about me . . . is that I tend to be emotive, especially when experiencing meaningful events or talking about things or people important to me.
19. If I could be anything other than a physician . . . It would be fun to play professional handball, or pursue a career as a conservation agent. I have always loved rigorous sports and wildlife.
ACP Chair, Board of Regents:
1. I was born and raised . . . born in New York City, raised in Marion, Virginia from age 5-14, then moved to Richmond, Virginia to finish high school.
2. As a child I was . . .addicted to basketball.
3. I decided to be a doctor . . . between my second and third year of college, after working that summer with emotionally disturbed children at a children’s psychiatric hospital.
4. The person(s) who influenced me the most . . . my father, a clinical psychologist.
5. I chose internal medicine because . . . During my first week on the Internal Medicine rotation, I found out that I was an internist. I did not choose internal medicine as much as I discovered who I was. Solving diagnostic problems, communicating with patients, and striving to help patients were some of my reasons. Internal medicine offers a perfect mix of “left brain and right brain” activities, and I love that.
6. What I find most rewarding about my career is . . . teaching students and residents. When you see the “light bulb” turn on and you realize the learner understands the beauty of internal medicine.
7. I’m good at what I do because . . . my vocation has become my avocation.
8. I joined ACP because . . . I am an internist. ACP is our organization.
9. An award or achievement I am proud of . . . the University of Alabama at Birmingham Presidential Teaching Award.
10. My advice to medical students is . . . figure out what you like and what you love. Train in the specialty that you love.
11. I like people who . . . respect others.
12. My family includes . . . my wife Freda (40th anniversary this past year), our daughter, son-in-law and their 2 sons, our son, and our dog Hobbes.
13. My interests/hobbies are . . . golf, running, music, books (especially audio books), good meals with friends and excellent wine.
14. I enjoy listening to . . . an eclectic mixture of rock – especially alt-rock and alt-country – jazz and some old stuff.
15. I enjoy watching . . . movies, some TV shows (especially detectives and good science fiction), and some sports – Alabama football, University of Virginia basketball (or really any sport).
16. My idea of a great vacation is . . . going on a cruise or playing golf.
17. Something others may not know about me is . . . I played tenor saxophone in high school.
18. If I could be anything other than a physician I would be . . . I cannot imagine any other career.
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