Paul Larsen, M.D., a pediatric neurologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), completed his exam of a young patient and asked if the family had any questions. Before he left the room, the little girl asked, “Is it OK for me to go to sleep tonight.”
“I thought, ‘I need to really listen. This is really important,’” said Larsen, who delivered the annual William T. Sirridge, M.D., Medical Humanities Lecture at the School of Medicine on March 7. “I need to be able to reassure her that she can go to sleep and that it is going to be OK.”
Larsen serves as the head of pediatric neurology at UNMC and has been named to the list of Best Doctors in America since 2003. He is director of the second-year neurology core and a lecturer in the first year neurosciences core at the University of Nebraska. He also developed the integrated neuroscience course and served as course director at Creighton University School of Medicine.
Larsen’s lecture focused on how two areas — his passions for studying the brain and caring for children — have impacted his journey in medicine and how he practices his craft.
A key ingredient to providing care, he said, is to care about the patient.
“When you care for a patient, they should not be alone,” Larsen said. “We can treat diseases. We can care for a person, but the essential part of healing is to be there and to be able to make sure they’re not alone.”
While there are bound to be difficult cases, Larsen said there are things physicians can enjoy each day. He talked about taking advantage of the joy of interacting with children, something he called an integral part of the physician’s work that should not be wasted and described a well-done examination as akin to watching a ballet. “It (an examination) is a beautiful thing to watch when well done,” he said.
Just as important, he added, is for physicians to remember their roots, stay up to date on the science of medicine, and to be confident in their practice.