Thursday, June 23, 2005

Duck Hunting

A group of doctors went duck hunting one morning. As they sat waiting in their boat, a flock of ducks flew by.

The psychiatrist pointed his gun at the birds, took aim, but didn't fire. "It looked like a duck, but it didn't feel like a duck," he explained.

The next time some ducks flew by, a general internist took aim, fired and a duck fell from the sky. "I got a duck, rule out pheasant, rule out quail," he said to the others.

Next, a surgeon pointed his gun at some ducks flying overhead and shot and another duck fell from the sky. He fished the carcass from the water, picked it up and showed it to the pathologist, asking, "Is this a duck?"

Finally, when more ducks flew overhead, the family physician whipped out an Uzi and started spraying bullets in the general direction of the birds. After dozens of ducks landed in the lake around them, the family doctor said, "I don't know what I got, but I got it."

This joke was first told to me by my preceptor, Dr. Robert Millman, when I was a 3rd year medical student shadowing him in his family practice office. Unfortunately, he passed away several years ago from pancreatic cancer. I will forever be grateful for his warm demeanor, his sense of humor, his trademark handlebar mustache, and for the lessons he taught me that I pass on every year to new students.

One of the most important lessons I learned from him was "You can't help someone if they don't want to be helped." This has saved me many times as I found myself frustrated by patients who wouldn't stop smoking/drinking/snorting/shooting up or generally abusing their bodies in some way.

A few years before his passing, we ran into each other at an AAFP National Meeting. We were both attending a lecture on community preceptors. I was happy to point out to everyone there that I was living proof that being a preceptor made a difference, because through the inspiration of my former preceptor (pointing to him, making him stand), I became a family physician and a community preceptor, too. I remember how proudly he smiled as the room erupted in applause, never expecting anything more than the joy of teaching and sharing some pearls of wisdom, and a joke or two.

God bless you, Bob, and thanks.

I'll have to remember to tell my medical student that joke before she leaves.