The Teddy Bear Principle with Dr. Andrew Thurston
15 min

Andrew Thurston is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and the Medical Director of the Supportive and Palliative Care service at UPMC Mercy Hospital. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, as well as Hospice and Palliative Medicine, with clinical interests spanning both Geriatrics and Palliative Care. Dr. Thurston’s interests include the integration of medical humanities into clinical care and medical curriculum. Dr. Thurston frequently leads Reflective Reading exercises that use poetry, art, photography, and short fiction as a tool for reflecting on various issues in the medical field. He is a Co-Director of the Area of Concentration for the Humanities and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh, and Co-Director of the Narrative and Experience of Illness elective for third and fourth year medical students.

So, you’ve diagnosed the patient. And you’ve clocked time in the room with that patient. But ask yourself: Did you take the time to be present with that patient? To learn their story? To understand who they really are? Today, Dr. Andrew Thurston shares the importance of humanities in medicine: Self-care and self-reflection are at the center of his practice. Having a strong relationship with ourselves is the key to building strong relationships with mentors—and informing better patient care, says Dr. Thurston. He also advises us to find what gives us meaning in life—whether it be art, poetry, or music—and prioritize it. Taking care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically are the foundation of finding and maintaining fulfillment in medicine. (So, even when you’re thinking of skipping lunch again—don’t.)

Pearls of Wisdom:

1. Building a strong relationship with a mentor requires having a strong relationship with yourself. 2. It’s most important to take the time to be present with the patient. Take the time to learn their story—it better informs the care of the patient. (It’s not just about diagnosing them.) 3. The smallest, overlooked things can make the biggest difference: Do not forget to eat during the day.

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