Stephen Turkovich, MD ’03, knows how challenging it can be to communicate with pediatric patients. From barely verbal toddlers to moody teens, experience has taught him how to build rapport with kids of every age and disposition.
As a UB assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, he teaches these tried-and-true strategies by example.
“Communicating with patients is one thing that I focus on with medical students and residents,” says Turkovich, pediatric hospitalist at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “I see teaching as an opportunity to help make them into physicians who have not only great knowledge, but great skills interacting with patients.
“That, in my mind, is what sets apart a good physician from a great physician.”
Turkovich is grateful to be practicing medicine in Buffalo—and not only because it’s his hometown.
“I believe that health care is one of the keys to the rebirth of this region, and I want to be a part of that,” he says.
He’s equally enthusiastic about teaching for UB, his undergraduate and medical school alma mater.
“The best thing about my own medical school experience was the teamwork,” he says.
“Our class was very cohesive and worked very well together. There was little, if any, competition among us, and that really helped us get through the stresses of medical school. But it also helped us understand that health care really is about teamwork.”
Having recently graduated from UB’s medical school, Turkovich finds he easily relates to the medical students who accompany him on his rounds through the hospital’s newborn nursery and inpatient pediatric floors.
“That’s an advantage for me because I can identify with them,” he says. “I have a sense of what their rotations are—and what their hopes and fears are.”
Teaching he adds, keeps him on his toes.
“The medical students and residents challenge me quite a bit. They ask a lot of ‘Why’ questions, which keeps me up to date on the latest evidence-based medicine.”
Turkovich knows he’s succeeded as a preceptor when his students “take ownership” of their patients.
“It’s that point when the family starts to view that student as their child’s doctor,” he explains. “That’s when you know they’ve got it: They’ve developed that relationship with the family, and they have that confidence about them.
“If I can move the medical student to that point, I’ve done my job.”