Dear Editors,

I am submitting an essay written by Alicia Davis.  Alicia wrote this essay in response to a request by members of The Society for Future Physicians, who wanted to meet a patient being treated for a life-threatening disease.

Alicia was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer which arose in her adrenal gland at the age of 16, a few weeks after a healthy pregnancy and delivery of her son, D.J.  Although she only required surgery initially, within a year the cancer recurred and spread.  She was cared for at UIH, where she experienced extremely intense chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplant, and experimental therapy.  She experienced chronic, severe pain over the past 4 years.

When given the opportunity to be a “teacher,” she put her experience and her thoughts on paper in the form of the submitted essay…Alicia died on December 2, 2002.

Her mother has given her permission for this work to be published.


Mary Lou Schmidt, M.D.
Department of Pediatrics

What Makes a Good Doctor?


Hi, I’m case #75214346-0390 better known as Alicia Davis.  Today I’d like to discuss what makes a good doctor!  In my opinion a good Doctor is a person who treats their patients like people instead of another caseload, a person who cares and equally important, a person who listens.  All of these qualities will lead to trust.

You know, it is already tough being in the hospital and to have a group of Doctors stand in front of your door and marvel over your illness or discuss your case as if you aren’t there is very uncomfortable.  I addressed myself as patient #75214346-0390 because I’m sure that if any doctors were around, they would refer to me as the “neuroblastoma case” instead of “that’s Alicia Davis who has neuroblastoma.”  Everyone has a name and I shouldn’t lose my identity just because I’m sick.  I’m human just like everyone in here and I have feelings too.  So treating your patient how you would want to be treated wuold not only make a good doctor, it would make a good person!

Now having a doctor who cares is so important.  I understand it’s unprofessional to get too close to a patient, yet being cold and distant is not good either.  There has to be a balance.  You could go to school, get As and Bs and be very knowledgable, but when dealing with a patient that knowledge goes hand in hand with compassion and empathy.  Like so many other professionals, people get into it for the money.  Not to make a difference or to lend a helping hand.  If this is the case it will reflect in your work, your attitude and your overall treatment of your patients.  If I didn’t have God by my side and a team of doctors who cared about me, their patient, I would probably be in a worse situation or not here at all.

Listening is a quality which is extremely important.  Everyone wants to be heard and taken seriously.  I believe a patient is your best source of information.  There have been times that I cried because I was so aggravated with the doctors.  They wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to tell them about my body.  For example, I have very small veins and they roll making it hard to get a good stick.  I would show them a good vein that would give them the blood sample they needed.  Instead they look everywhere else and nine times out of ten they come right back to the vein that I had showed them.  If they would have listened to me, it would have saved time and saved me a few extra painful sticks.  Just because the patient helps you doesn’t make you incompetent.  It should make you confident that you’re giving hte best possible treatment.  After all a patient and a doctor should be more like a partnership rather than a dictatorship.


Alicia Davis