On Nov. 3, Massachusetts General Hospital celebrated the establishment of two chairs in primary care recognizing Peter L. Gross, MD, for his dedication to his patients and students during a career that has spanned more than 40 years. The response from donors, colleagues and grateful patients was so great that enough funds are committed to create two primary care chairs in his honor – a first for Mass General.
“What has not changed, however, is the unique connection between patient and physician that I first experienced as a young student,” Dr. Gross says.
Dr. Gross arrived at Mass General nearly a half-century ago as a second year Harvard Medical School student. He was assigned to a staff physician to learn medical history taking and physical examination in the Bulfinch building wards. In these large, open rooms with only curtains dividing the beds, the average heart attack patient was hospitalized for nearly three weeks. The MGH Department of Medicine had 24 residents, and Fruit Street contained two large, open parking lots.
Today, the department has changed dramatically and includes more than 160 residents. Thousands of patients are admitted to the medical service each year, and patients who suffer from heart attacks average three days or less in the hospital. The Bulfinch Building houses administrative offices, and numerous buildings have been added to the campus.
Reflecting Primary Care Values
“What has not changed, however, is the unique connection between patient and physician that I first experienced as a young student,” Dr. Gross says. “This connection, the ‘patient-doctor relationship,’ is central to everything we do in patient care, and mentorship is the foundation of our education of physicians.” Perpetuating these key aspects of physician education and patient care is the goal in these chair awards.
Joshua Metlay, MD, PhD, chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, is the inaugural incumbent for the first chair. The recipient of several teaching and research awards, Dr. Metlay is also devoted to mentorship and education. “I can’t imagine a more fitting incumbent,” said Katrina Armstrong, MD, MSCE, physician-in-chief of the MGH Department of Medicine. “He symbolizes all the values of primary care.”
“This chair celebrates the promise of general medicine, now and in the future,” Dr. Metlay says.
The second chair is earmarked for a primary care physician, who will practice and care for patients actively while also pursuing innovation and research in practice organization and student and resident education. Mass General has long understood the importance of primary care. Historically, the hospital is home to several leaders in the field including John Stoeckle, MD, who is widely known for his many contributions at MGH and nationally. With approximately 250 primary care physicians, MGH’s 20 adult practices see more than 150,000 patients annually.
Supporting New Physician Leaders
These chairs will provide a permanent endowment in Dr. Gross’s name to carry on his work in primary care. “This chair celebrates the promise of general medicine, now and in the future,” Dr. Metlay says. “It will help support a pipeline of physician leaders to develop the solutions to the really challenging problems in medicine.”
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