Chance past encounters lead to deeper physician-student relationships

April 12, 2022 | by Jodi McCaffrey
Chance past encounters lead to deeper physician-student relationships

Barry Bloom, M.D., estimates that he has cared for close to 30,000 babies in his 30-year career. He has also mentored hundreds of medical students and residents. While he treasures every interaction, he recently learned that he shares extra special bonds with three young clinicians who rotated through his neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

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Dr. Bloom, a neonatologist and medical director of the NICU at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas, was working in the NICU in 1997 when Ashley Walters was born prematurely. She was the recipient of surfactant, a mixture of fat and proteins used to treat respiratory distress syndrome in infants. Ashley’s mother consented to have her daughter’s case included in an optimal use clinical trial that Dr. Bloom was leading. Now a fourth-year medical student at Kansas City University - College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ashley reconnected with Dr. Bloom during her NICU sub-internship at Wesley.

“I was shocked when my mother told me that I was a subject in one of Dr. Bloom’s surfactant clinical trials when I was a preemie,” Ashley said. “He’s a wealth of information.”

Ali Oatsdean, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine - Wichita, also was treated by Dr. Bloom as an infant. Born prematurely, Ali required newborn resuscitation, which Dr. Bloom attended. However, that wasn’t her only encounter with Dr. Bloom. Before her rotation in Wesley’s NICU, Ali was a bridesmaid in Dr. Bloom’s son Matthew’s wedding to her best friend.

“It is funny how small of a world Wichita is sometimes,” Ali said with a laugh.

“Ashley and Ali each worked in the NICU for four weeks as an elective,” Dr. Bloom explained. “They took notes during morning rounds with attendings, residents and nurse practitioners, then we reviewed each case and entered the electronic notes in the patients’ medical records together.”

Internal medicine-pediatrics resident Marrissa Copas Weaver, M.D., also rotated through Dr. Bloom’s NICU and remembered the neonatologist from years prior during her undergraduate studies.

“I met Dr. Bloom at the University of Kansas Research Forum in 2013 when he moderated my undergraduate research poster presentation,” Dr. Copas Weaver recalled. “I must have done well on the project because he then wrote me a letter of recommendation for medical school.”

“All three young women are incredibly bright and have great futures in medicine ahead of them,” Dr. Bloom said.

For Ashley, the future includes a pediatric residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. After residency, she’s planning to pursue a career in developmental and behavioral pediatrics. Ali matched with a family medicine residency at Indiana University Health Medical Center in Indianapolis. She hopes to return to Kansas and practice full-scope family medicine. Lastly, while Dr. Copas Weaver said she enjoyed her rotation in Wesley’s NICU, she plans to practice as a newborn and internal medicine hospitalist in Wichita. 

Advice for the next generation of physicians

“The world of neonatology has changed so much since I started,” Dr. Bloom said. “Our practice is much more evolved, and our techniques are more successful, which has greatly improved long-term outcomes for our patients. In the early days of my career, I would have never believed how far care has advanced now.”

When asked his advice for the three young clinicians, Dr. Bloom’s answer was simple.

“The key to excelling as a physician is to keep pursuing additional knowledge and pushing limits of what we can do as clinicians,” he said. “Yes, memorize current knowledge, but it’s also important to continue to learn. Keep your eyes open and keep asking if there’s a better way to treat your patients.”

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