Dalai Lama's Physician Speaks at College of Medicine

Dalai Lama’s Physician Speaks at College of Medicine

Medical students are taught early on that the doctor/patient relationship is a sacred one that should never be neglected. That sentiment was echoed June 6 by a guest speaker at the UCF College of Medicine — Dr. Barry Kerzin, a Buddhist monk and personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Dressed in his traditional monk’s robe, Dr. Kerzin highlighted honesty as one of the most important parts of the doctor/patient relationship. “Honesty is the foundation of ethics,” he said. “Slow down, and look introspectively, ask yourself: Am I being honest?” He added that the medical field can be a fast paced world, which puts pressure on physicians to speed through patient visits, or glaze over details about their condition. Dr. Kerzin advised that doctors should always take a minute to pause and evaluate how they are treating their patients. He said such self-evaluation is necessary to maintain trust with the patient.

“Remember the last time you went to the doctor,” Dr. Kerzin asked. “If there wasn’t a smile, or some compassion, you weren’t satisfied.” He added that it is helpful to think of how you would want your own loved ones to be treated and act accordingly.

The presentation was sponsored by Jacque and Rip Gellein and heard by current and prospective medical students, Central Florida community physicians and College of Medicine faculty. As Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean said as she introduced Dr. Kerzin, “Many of us are physicians or physicians in training, but we’re also patients. “No matter who you are, I think this topic will touch each one of us in a very different way.”

Dr. Kerzin also delved into the difficult situation of caring for a dying patient.  Treating a terminal illness can often inflict a sense of failure in physicians, but he urged healthcare providers to resist that feeling. “Sometimes we feel like we have a mandate to cure,” he said. “We have to recognize [a terminal illness] is the time when we are most needed. Do it with an open heart and it will reward your practice of medicine.” He added that sometimes just sitting with the patient can be the most helpful thing to do. “If you don’t know what to say, then say nothing.”

Because of his vocation as a Buddhist monk, spirituality has continually played a role in Dr. Kerzin’s practice of medicine. As time goes on, he says the two worlds continue to become even more intertwined. “As a physician I was trained to treat physical problems, as a Buddhist monk, I deal with more emotional problems,” he said. “More and more I realize these are not so far away. The two worlds are much more blended for me now.”