Brody School of Medicine faculty share pearls of wisdom

Each year, on the eve of finding out where they matched for their residency training, graduating medical students at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine select a group of their professors from whom they want to receive some additional “pearls of wisdom.”

Below are excerpts from the faculty presentations delivered during this year’s String of Pearls event.


DR. KELLY HARRELL – anatomy & cell biology

“Life is hard, embrace the resistance. … Feeling that resistance allows us to appreciate and acknowledge our true potential. … Our struggles, and how we respond to them, shape who we are. … As you all embark on your residencies, I want you to accept that the hard days in front of you are there for a reason. Life gives you what you can handle. You are all capable of taking that resistance and turning it into flight.”


DR. MICHAEL LANG – psychiatry

“Embrace the fact that you are a sponge. You’re going to go somewhere for residency and believe it or not, you know absolutely nothing. You’ve been well taught, but there’s going to be so much thrown at you in the first month, you’re not going to know what to do with it. What I want you to do is take it all in stride. Take the criticism well, even if it is delivered badly. Incorporate it, learn from it and have a thick skin. … It is as important to see what not to do as it is to see what to do. … That will help mold you into the physician you will be.”


DR. JILL SUTTON – obstetrics & gynecology

“Believe there is good in the world – be the good. It can be really hard and some days you’re going to have to search really hard to find the good. But I say if you can’t see it, then just be it. … Take every opportunity to get the most out of every moment. I consider myself very lucky to love my work. Every day I search for the reason and every day it’s pretty easy to find – it’s you. Watching you and your lightbulbs go off. That ‘aha’ moment that you got it, that I might have taught you some little nugget that might help save a patient. That’s what does it for me, seeing it in you.”


DR. MARK NEWELL – surgery

“Never let fear determine what your future is going to be. Danger is real, there’s no question about it. But fear, however, is a choice. So you can look at it two ways. You can either forget everything and run, or you can choose to decide to face everything and rise. … What you have to do is transform fear into action, and just throw yourself out there. … Don’t let your fears hold you captive. … You’re going to need not only the strength, but the courage as well, to advocate for your patients to make the difficult decisions that need to be made and certainly to speak up when necessary. … BSOM Class of 2018, you certainly have bright futures ahead of you, but success doesn’t just happen – you really have to fight for it with everything that you have. Don’t allow fear to cause you to settle for mediocrity, especially when you can aspire to great things.”


DR. M. J. BARCHMAN – internal medicine

“Over the last 30 years since I’ve been a physician, we’ve done a great job of figuring out a lot of stuff. … We’ve done a great job of defining disease and in response, we’ve done some pretty smart things based on good science. We’ve come up with some good solutions, but we’ve also failed… and that happens. And why is that? I think that some of our failures are because we aren’t applying the tools appropriately and I see that as the trend of the next generation. Your job in medicine is to figure out your hosts a little bit better. … That’s what we’re going to start figuring out and we can start applying our Band-Aids more appropriately. Hippocrates said this a really long time ago: ‘It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.’”


DR. PHIL BOYER – pathology

“I wish that I could give you a pearl-covered flash drive to plug into your occipital port for you to take information, as well as practice guidelines, with you. Unfortunately, that’s not available. My major pearl is the following. We have so much information, that we have to make it ours. And we have to do that not in a passive kind of way, but aggressively.”


DR. TOM IRONS – pediatrics

“All of us are stories. We in fact see the world and the creatures we encounter in the world, human and otherwise, in the context of our own stories. Our patients likewise are stories, stories that cannot be reduced into mouse clicks. Stories that extend beyond the limits of human existence. When we touch them, patients will sometimes show us the windows into their stories. If we’re able see and enter these windows, we can touch their hearts and they ours.”