Dr. Susan Clark passed away last week. I won't pretend that I knew her all that well, but let me tell you about the difference she made in my life.
I could direct you to her profile on the CHOC Children's website. Or the link to Instagram where I secondly heard about her unexpected death (I first heard through one of the nurses I work with.) And you'll see many testaments to the impact she made on patients and families throughout her career as an Pediatric Endocrinologist. I'm sure all this and more will be said at her memorial.
However, let me tell you about the little things. Why does Dr. Clark stand out in my memory? I did my second continuity clinic in my last year of residency with one of her colleagues, Dr. Daniels, also a great teacher and physician. I didn't work closely with Dr. Clark, except when she was on service in the hospital. But what I remember most about Dr. Clark is her clear DEDICATION to the families she worked with. I almost said "served" but as a physician, I don't think of my work as a 'service' per se. More a collaboration.
When you're overworked and extremely fatigued--and EVERY resident is, even after catching up on sleep, sometimes it's easy to forget the human side of medicine. Not the number of admits, not the parents you need to update even though you're cross-covering and you're figuring out their child's plan so you can give the best update possible, not the never-ending pages you receive when you're the ADMIT resident.
Residency is a blur except for a few clear moments. One of those moments for me is when Dr. Clark sat down to give a noon conference on Gender Ambiguity and Gender Identity. It's been over a decade so I'm sure I'm mixing up the exact title of her lecture, but what is still clear to me is her adamance in treating her patients with the utmost respect and in figuring out the best possible support for these complicated patients.
I'm sorry if I'm not being clear--ever since I heard the news, I keep tearing up. And I haven't spoken to Dr. Clark in years. But what I want to say is that Dr. Clark represented such a strong physician with clear dedication to her patients. And, on top of it all, she taught generations of physicians, nurses, MAs what matters most in the health care profession: empathy.
I can't express it in words but I know what I feel in my heart: Dr. Clark left behind a legacy of what it is like to be a physician who makes a difference in the world around her. I can think of no better role model than that.
Thank you, Dr. Clark, for taking the time to teach a tired resident what it means to be a great physician. You will be missed.