Ben Buettner, M.D., ’16, always had an interest in internal medicine as a medical student. He liked that the specialty’s scope of practice encompassed almost every part of the human body.
“I remember being in awe of the amount of knowledge the internal medicine attending physicians had and in their ability to take a chief complaint and, through talking to the patient, generate a differential diagnosis to guide testing and treatment,” said Buettner, who is from Lima, Ohio. “I realized early in my training that I wanted to maintain this broad knowledge base that internists have.”
The recent graduate of the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine has just finished his first year of residency at the Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. His preparation and work ethic have yielded him the Washington University Internal Medicine Intern of the Year award.
“It was an honor to win this award. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a fantastic group of residents, who I am constantly amazed by their accomplishments, medical knowledge and dedication to patient care,” Buettner said. “It means a lot to receive this recognition when so many people in the group are equally as deserving.”
Making the leap from student to resident hasn’t been without challenges, Buettner said. The difference in the workload makes for a tremendous learning curve. In the third and fourth years of medical school, Buettner remembers talking to patients and thinking about major aspects of their care, such as medications, diagnostic tests and what needed to be done during their visit.
“All of a sudden, you are a day-one intern responsible for all aspects of the patient’s care, whether that be a dosage of Tylenol, where the patient should go when they are discharged or what to do when the unexpected happens,” Buettner said. “The role shifts, from not just deciding what to do, to both deciding and coordinating sometimes very complex plans.”
Staying sharp on medical knowledge is important, but he notes that working efficiently and staying organized are critical as a resident. He has also learned the value of communicating clearly with his treatment team and others to make sure patients get the care they deserve.
The treatment team for a patient can be quite large, sometimes including physicians from other hospitals, consultants, nurses, therapists or social workers. Buettner, however, prioritizes communicating with the patients themselves.
“As an intern and resident, you are the principle communicator with your patient and their family. It is your responsibility to keep the patient updated, to have discussions about the plan of care and, many times, to have difficult and challenging conversations,” Buettner said.
He has learned that patients and their families are much more involved in their care if he takes the time to answer their questions and concerns up front.
Adjusting to St. Louis has been very easy by comparison. It has a Midwestern feel, and Buettner has found there’s plenty for him and other residents to do when they’re not working. The hospital he works in attracts a diverse patient population, comprised of those from underserved areas of the inner city to others coming from rural regions hours away. Buettner sees people from all walks of life, with a wide range of medical problems and unique stories.
“This diversity of clinical experience is something that has really added to my residency experience,” he said.
Buettner has two years left in residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. After that, he may stay in St. Louis or move to another city. He’s keeping an open mind. He plans to complete a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine.
For medical students interested in pursuing internal medicine, Buettner recommends going into third- and fourth-year clinical rotations ready to absorb as much knowledge as possible while having a good attitude. He says they should take advantage of the opportunity to learn about things they may not see again because it will help them to become better doctors, but that showing up, being enthusiastic and keeping a smile are just as important for success in clinical years.
“My educational experience at Wright State, throughout the four years, made me exceptionally well prepared for residency,” Buettner said. “I think that Wright State does a great job at developing sound clinical reasoning skills, communication skills and the ability to give compassionate care to our patients.”
Wright State became an independent institution in 1967 and spent the next 50 years growing into an innovative leader in student success. In 2017, it celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent public university, culminating with a special Homecoming celebration Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.