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Some Good Advice

Benferguson72x721Ben Ferguson -- I generally have trouble talking about myself, especially in social situations where there are a lot of people I’ve never met. I say a few words and then don’t really feel like talking too much. I’ve often been told that I’m hard to get to know, that I have a wall up around me that’s hard to crack. (Granted, I say this as I’m writing about myself publicly in a weblog.) Regardless, I got some good advice from my mom several months ago when a bunch of family members were in town for a reunion.

She said, after noticing that I was starting to get pretty uncomfortable with the rapid-fire questions about what medical school is like, what I want to go into, whether I’m going to be a surgeon like my dad, whether I’m going to be an anesthesiologist like my mom, what my thoughts are regarding why they never started a surgical practice together, why I’m doing a PhD, how long it’s going to take, how much longer I have in school, what this thing on their foot is, why their fingers are so cold and whether they’re going to die from it and/or have cancer and/or should have it looked at, etc., “Ben, you have one of the most fascinating jobs on the planet. People are going to ask you about it every time they see you because they largely have boring jobs that they hate. You need to learn how to deflect the conversation to them: Ask them what they do, ask them how their job is going, ask them questions about them. Otherwise you’re going to go crazy with all the questions about you you you.”

The more I thought about it, it’s true, and it’s especially true with members of my extended family, who for the most part can and will talk and smother you until you sometimes want to take a bat to their head. Or your own. It figures that once the convo is placed squarely on them, they’d roll with it and back off of me so I can get a breather once in a while.

My dad also had some good advice for me a few years ago, something a mentor of his told him while he was a medical student, and it’s particularly timely for me given that I’m starting to put together some publications in the lab. It was regarding how one goes about writing journal articles: “First, you tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, then you tell ‘em, then you tell ‘em what you just told ‘em.”

Great! If only it were that easy.

March 19, 2008 in Ben Ferguson | Permalink


Sounds like your parents gave you some good advice. Your father is spot on about a journal article. The best ones are just like that. The advice I got was to never withhold the punch line from the Introduction, because your reader may never get further than that unless you make him/her WANT to read on. Your mother is exactly right about your job. Or your future job. There's no job on the planet better than being a doctor. Despite all the griping in the field about regulation, paperwork, oversight, poor reimbursement... I can't imagine anything I'd rather do.

Posted by: David Loeb, MD, PhD | Mar 25, 2008 7:48:06 PM

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