By: Pooja Patel, Pharm.D. Candidate c/o 2013
The ‘end of an era’ is a fitting way to describe my rotation this past February with Dr. Gladys El-Chaar at Steven and Alexandra Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center of New York. As many have heard, Dr. El-Chaar shifted from her long-standing position at Long Island Jewish Medical Center to Winthrop University Hospital, and I was lucky enough to witness the end of her legacy at the former. Despite the fact that Dr. El-Chaar was in the midst of her move, she made my rotation an unforgettable and invaluable experience.
My expectations for the rotation were high, and I knew that I was going to work hard and learn a lot. Dr. El-Chaar did not disappoint. From day one, her ferocious passion for her work and for the children that she cared for was apparent. She spoke with such fervor that you could not help but get just as excited about working with her and hopefully, changing a few lives. Along with her passion came a strong will and high expectations. She expected a great deal from her students, and we could tell that we would have to work hard to live up to her standards. These standards made the rotation challenging – not because Dr. El-Chaar held you to them, but because you held yourself to them. The care and attention to detail required when working with any patient is staggering, and with children, the attention required is even greater. Learning under Dr. El-Chaar helped me understand this.
A typical day began early, heading to the floors to greet the team and to get the patient list for the day at 6:30AM. By seven, we had familiarized ourselves with the patients assigned to our team, and we were meeting up with them for Morning Rounds. Although I was lucky to be Dr. El-Chaar’s last rotation group at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, I was even luckier for having the opportunity to work with Dr. Robert Katz. Dr. Katz was an amazing Pediatrician who happened to be teaching the team that we were assigned to during my rotation. He would oversee the doctors and residents, as well as advise them on cases that were more difficult. Therefore, while the doctors discussed cases and Dr. Katz taught us, my mornings were always an educational experience. Even the doctors on the team did not disappoint; you could see that they loved the work that they were doing and they strived hard to improve themselves every day.
After rounds, the day would rush by. We picked a few patients to follow, and then spent the rest of the morning reviewing their charts and profiles. This period would be interrupted at 9AM when Family Centered Rounds began, and we reconvened with the team and visited the patients with their families. Throughout the day, Dr. El-Chaar’s office remained open for questions while she worked, and in the afternoon, she set aside her work and met with us, as well as the resident rotating with her at the time. We spoke about our patients and had open discussions about what we learned. She guided us through our presentations and helped us understand the answers to our own questions. Many times, our presentations raised new questions that we researched on our own; we presented the answers to her the next time that we met. This paradigm encouraged us to conduct our research thoroughly, and by the end of the rotation, we began to anticipate some of the questions before Dr. El-Chaar had the opportunity to ask them. The intimacy of her office allowed us to speak freely and become accustomed to presenting cases in a clear and organized manner without a large audience.
Even though we were busy throughout the day, our meetings with Dr. El-Chaar were never short. We spent long hours dissecting through patient cases and often digressed to related topics. We also learned a great deal about Dr. El-Chaar outside of her role as a professor, and she, in turn, learned a great deal about us. She shared her experiences with us, and our laughter often echoed throughout the Drug Information Center.
I cannot speak about what Winthrop University Hospital would be as a rotation site, but I do know that no matter what, if you have Dr. El-Chaar as your preceptor, it will be one of the greatest experiences of your life. Do not be afraid of hard work or be intimidated by the high standards that working with Dr. El-Chaar requires. Take her rotations with an open mind, and you will come out finding your brain a lot fuller and creating a lifelong friendship.