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Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Robert Arnold

Dr. Robert Arnold learned about the Clinical Scholars program when he was a resident at Brown University.  Having gone to a medical school that did not emphasize research and knowing that he both wanted to be a generalist and academic medicine, he was not sure what to do after completing his residency.  His program director, Steve Wartman recommended that he look into the Clinical Scholars program (he had completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins).  He said that it was the perfect fellowship to do for someone who wanted a career in academic medicine and whose interests were in bioethics, sociology or health service research.

Dr. Arnold notes that the two years he spent as a Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania (1986-1988) were both difficult and amazingly helpful.  They were helpful because he talked to and worked with brilliant young colleagues and learned a tremendous amount about social sciences and their role in medicine.  He stated that he still uses the material he learned. He was able to take courses from the best minds in sociology, economics and the law. “The Clinical Scholars program had a wonderful reputation and once people heard I was a Scholar they were willing to be very generative.”

He describes the years as difficult because he had to learn to become an independent thinker.  Going from a residency where your days are pretty full and you know what counts as success to the unstructured life of a fellow is difficult.  There were too many resources and options.  What counted as success needed to come from him rather than external sources. He had to learn how to build a scholar life and navigate it.  “The program was there to help me if I had questions or needed help.  On the other hand, they believed that a key experience was learning to be more internally motivated and directed. While this was not easy, it was an important lesson for me. As an academician whose work has been in “atypical” fields such as communication, medical ethics and palliative care, one needs to have the self- fortitude to go your own way.” 

Dr. Arnold believes that to a large degree, the success he has had in his career is directly attributable to the lessons he learned as a Clinical Scholar.

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