Good Night, Sweet Prince

Remembering An Amazing Physician and Teacher

The Doctor Is In
Dec 31, 2019 · 3 min read

“Are you sitting down?”

That’s what my friend and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Lowenthal asked me when I learned the news.

“Yes,” I replied. “What’s up?”

“Mike Silver passed away.”

I was dumbfounded in shock. Dr. Michael Silver was my Pulmonary Attending in Fellowship, and I was his clinic Fellow for at least one year. His loss, therefore, is extremely personal.

Like many students, I suspect, I never really appreciated the value of his teaching and mentorship until way, way later. I would frequently roll my eyes when he would point out things to me that I didn’t see in a patient case.

Once, for example, I was presenting a case of a woman with sarcoidosis, telling him all the clinical details of her case, and he asked me, “Did she tell you about her depression?” I thought to myself, “What in God’s name does that have to do with sarcoidosis???”

Yet, those little details — that I, in the arrogance of my youth, brushed aside — can make a huge difference in a patient who complains of shortness of breath. I see that now…I wish I saw that then.

I remember him telling me that — correctly — I learn by pattern recognition. What I needed to work on was keeping my eye out for when the pattern changes just a bit…so I don’t miss out on something important. Sage advice, and I see now how right he was.

I will never forget how he cheered when — during the Thursday morning Pulmonary conferences I used to attend as a resident — it was announced that I matched into the Rush Fellowship. It made me feel so welcome, and I was so very grateful.

I realized how tender a man he was when I saw him go through the death of his father. I saw how sweet his heart was, and that always stuck with me. I suspect that’s part of the reason why his patients absolutely loved him: he truly cared about them on a human level. If my patients like me half as much as Dr. Silver’s patients loved him, I will be an amazingly successful doctor.

Especially in Medicine, we owe so much to our teachers. You can’t learn to be a doctor from books…it is learned through experience and practice. And our teachers are the gateway to that experience and practice. They open the door to the world and honor of practicing medicine and taking care of the sick.

How do we thank them? Of course, we say “Thank You,” and I wish I had done more of that to Dr. Silver. More importantly, we thank our teachers by taking their advice and lessons to heart. We also thank our teachers by being the best physicians we can be. That way, we can honor their significant sacrifice — by virtue of their becoming teachers in the first place — through our practice of the best medicine possible: a practice of integrity and passion for our patients and their healing.

I will always be a part of the Rush family: I went to Medical School at Rush; I went to Residency at Rush; I went to Fellowship at Rush (where Dr. Silver was my teacher); in fact, I was born at Rush Medical Center (true story). And I am so, the loss of Dr. Silver hits hard, and the Rush family will never be the same without him walking the halls of that hallowed place.

One thing is for certain: I am a better doctor because Dr. Michael Silver was one of my teachers. I am a better doctor because he took me under his wing. I am a better doctor because I learned from one of the best physicians Chicago has ever had.

Dr. Silver, thank you. Thank you so much for all that you did. Thank you for your wisdom, your laughter, your tears, and your passion. Thank you for the care you gave to countless people who breathe better, now and forever, because you were their doctor. We will never forget you and all that you did. We will miss you so very much.

Good Night, Sweet Prince. It will never be the same without you.

The Doctor Is In

Written by

Thoughts of Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa, a Critical Care specialist and physician leader, author, and writer. His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

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