Young boys sometimes see a firefighter or a police officer in the line of duty and decide that’s what they want to be when they get older. Michael Beck, MD, FAAP, saw his pediatrician that way.
“He was a very humanistic provider and found joy in serving children and their families,” Dr. Beck says. “I saw how a pediatrician could influence others and make the world a better place and still have fun serving a vulnerable patient population.”
His career in pediatric hospital medicine, though?
“It was largely pure luck,” Dr. Beck admits. “When I was seeking my first job, I was offered a position that was 50/50 internal medicine and pediatrics but purely a hospitalist position.”
Dr. Beck has risen through academic hospitalist ranks the past 15 years and now serves as the division chief of pediatric hospital medicine at Penn State Children’s Hospital at Milton S. Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center. He is one of eight new members of Team Hospitalist, The Hospitalist’s volunteer editorial advisory board.
Question: What was medical school and residency like for you? Was there a single moment you knew “I can do this”?
Answer: I always have been filled with self-doubt, which is a perpetual motivator for me. I guess I believed I could do hospital-based work when I started knowing the majority of what was going on with patients after hearing residents discuss cases and I knew what the labs, studies, and exam findings were going to be before I saw the patient.
Q: What do you like most about working as a hospitalist?
A: The acuity and pathology of cases. I get to see cases that some people only read about. It is very intellectual challenging, and I get to work with and learn from specialists every day.
Q: What do you dislike most?
A: Some of the cases are devastating to families. It is always important to remind yourself—and the team—that some of the diagnoses we help make affect families and the patient in very profound ways.
Q: Did you have a mentor during your training or early career? If so, who was the mentor, and what were the most important lessons you learned from him/her?
A: Dr. Barbara Ostrov. I learned what it really means to be a servant-leader. I witnessed her work ethic and saw that a leader of others should lead by example and be willing to work twice what is expected of others. She is always nonjudgmental and professional, yet forthright, when dealing with contentious situations. She trumpets the work of others, not her own, and sees others’ successes as her success. In the end, I believed she worked for me, not the other way around.
Q: Have you tried to mentor others? Why or why not?
A: Yes. As a division chief, I want others to succeed. The best quote I have read was by Richard Branson [CEO of Virgin]: “Train people so that they can leave, but treat them so they want to stay.”
Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in HM in your career?
A: It has moved from a clinical service to a robust area of research and strong researchers.
Q: What’s the biggest change you would like to see in HM?
A: If hospital medicine is positioning itself to be a specialty with fellowship training, with access to knowledge different from PCPs, then I believe we should function like other specialty services with a different skill set. We should own our discharge process and follow-up plans. We should follow up with patients in a discharge clinic setting to review clinical course, health literacy issues, labs, and studies and even order follow-up studies based on incoming results.