3 Questions with Ethical Leader Award Winner, Timothy Smile, M3

“When I first started my clerkship, I was told, ‘You have to suffer a little with your patients to care for and treat them well.’”

Name: Timothy Smile, M3

Award: Ethical Leader

Hometown: Cincinnati

Q. Have you chosen a specialty?

A. As a third-year student, I am taking my required clerkships in the different specialties, such as psychiatry. So far I have loved every one. I think I have my mind set on going into oncology. I want to work with cancer patients because I like talking to them and helping to explain the treatment so they can gain a better understanding about their diagnosis.

Q. Are you required to take an ethics course?

A. Yes, it is part of the required courses titled “Human Values in Medicine.” It is an important part of the HVM curriculum. In the specialty I am in right now, psychiatry, I see more ethical issues. Ethics really come into play when you are working with patients who may not have the mental capacity to understand the treatment needed. Psychiatry often involves having patients who are possibly a danger to themselves or others being involuntarily admitted to the hospital for treatment. Even though the patient may wish to go home and try to heal there, it may not be in their best interests according to the physician’s assessment. This is an example of a patient lacking the capacity to make the decision, something I was taught in ethics class.

Q. Do you feel your understanding of ethics has been challenged?

A. Not as of yet, because I am in a controlled learning environment where I don’t have to make the big decisions by myself yet. I feel they will really be challenged when I am an attending physician and have to make the decisions myself. Now, all ethical dilemmas are solved in team meetings, but I feel this whole year has been great practice for what is to come.

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