Looking beyond the symptoms to the spirit within

After more than 20 years at the University of Michigan, Dr. David Rosen passed away on Monday, February 11.  David was a gifted clinician and educator in the Department. Although David will be remembered for his many contributions and accomplishments, his greatest gift to our community has been his friendship and his dedication to his patients and colleagues.   A lectureship has been established in his name. Contributions to the lectureship in Dr. Rosen’s name can be made online.

As doctors we work to see and treat each patient as an individual.  Being “The Leaders and Best” requires not only medical knowledge but also a deep appreciation for the importance of building a trusting, caring relationship with each and every patient we are privileged to care for.

The best doctors know that providing ‘patient centered care’ is about providing care that respects and understands the patient’s spirit, taking into account each patient’s personal and emotional challenges in addition to their symptoms and medical needs.

There is no class you can take to learn this, nor any textbook available that can provide this insight, because every patient is unique.  If you’re lucky, you have the opportunity to see it in action – to learn how to shape each physician-patient interaction to build a caring, trusting relationship.  I have been that lucky, as have many of my colleagues here who have had the honor of working alongside Dr. David Rosen.

As the chief for the Teenage and Young Adult Health Program within the Department of Pediatrics, David specializes in working with children and adolescents struggling with conditions such as eating disorders, depression, and the mental health challenges of those struggling with chronic illness.   This past year,  Dr. Rosen completed one of several important career goals to open an innovative new clinic offering much needed treatment and care for children and young adults with eating disorders – the only day-treatment program of its kind for children in Michigan.

David also serves as the associate director of education within Pediatrics – a role in which he guides, mentors and trains the next generation of physicians to “not to be afraid of teenagers.”   Indeed, soon after returning to his beloved University of Michigan campus in 1990, David realized “the only way to give the best care to adolescents is to teach others how to be the best physicians they can be in their care of teenagers.”

And he was very good at doing just that!

David has helped class after class of pediatric, psychiatry and medicine doctors-in-training appreciate what teenagers reveal in the subtleties of the gestures, mannerisms, and communication styles they use in their interactions with physicians.  He has a unique skill for helping physicians learn to create a comfortable, trusting relationship that is open, honest, patient and kind.   What our trainees have observed is that this skill in and of itself can truly “heal” in a way that is equally if not more powerful than any medical skill they learn from a book.

Dr. Rosen and some of the photographs he has taken, which are on display in the Department of Pediatrics Administrative Offices. More of Dr. Rosen’s photography can be viewed on his personal photography website.

Dr. Rosen and some of the photographs he has taken, which are on display in the Department of Pediatrics Administrative Offices. More of Dr. Rosen’s photography can be viewed on his personal photography website.

His knack for getting beyond the medical question – for getting to know the spirit of his patients in a way that is comfortable to them, for getting to know their personality and what they love, for getting past adult stereotypes to the spirit and energy of each child with honesty and sensitivity – manifests itself in yet another beautiful way.  David is also a brilliant photographer specializing in children’s photography.  In fact, his artwork graces the walls of our administrative suite.

His work and what he has achieved over his time here at Mott Children’s Hospital is a constant reminder to all of us that we do our jobs best when we look deeper than a name and medical record.

He has been a steadfast advocate for the importance of the word “care” in all that we do.

On behalf of the entire faculty here at Mott, thank you for this reminder, David.  You have taught us an incredible lesson.

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