In this series, youth poised to be Chicago’s future leaders (UCAN program participants and recent alumni) interview current Chicago leaders in their fields of interest.
Maya Hunter: Thank you for being with us today, Dr. Goodall. Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Perpetua Goodall, M.D.: Well, thank you Maya, for inviting me to talk with you. It’s my pleasure to get to know you and tell you about my work. I’m Dr. Perpetua Goodall, and I’m an obstetrician-gynecologist here at the University of Chicago. I’ve been in practice here for going on 18 years, and what I do is a combination of things. I do obstetric care, which is providing prenatal care to women as they go through their pregnancy. I provide care for them during their childbirth, and then afterwards. As a gynecologist, I focus on preventive health care for women, and I also take care of conditions that affect the reproductive system of women.
MH: Why did you choose your specialty of medicine?
PG: I think that OB/GYN combines an opportunity to provide primary care for women, and it also gives you an opportunity to do procedures ( I really like working with my hands). So, I have a lot of variety in my day. I get to see women from adolescence through the menopause, and so might go into one room to see a teenager coming in to talk about contraception and walk into another room and talk to a 65-year-old who’s dealing with menopause. Or I’ll go meet with a 40-year-old dealing with conditions like abnormal bleeding or fibroid tumors.
I get to see a lot of different types of patients from different backgrounds, and so I think OB/GYN is a very special experience.
MH: What do you like most about your medical practice?
PG: I really enjoy the patients – talking to them, getting to connect with them on a personal level. Patients are sharing some of the most intimate details of their lives with you, so it really gives you an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships over time. And I take pleasure in getting to know families, taking care of moms, daughters, sisters, aunts…taking care of their families and their communities.
MH: Besides seeing patients, you are also a professor – so what do you like about teaching?
PG: Teaching is rewarding on a number of fronts.
It’s nice to see students grow over time, to have an influence on a future generation of healthcare providers and doctors, and to share the knowledge that I’ve developed over time. I also like being able to continue to develop my own knowledge and improve and grow. So, it’s rewarding both as a student and as a teacher.
It also gives you an opportunity to give back or contribute to the system that helped you get to where you are.
The other thing I like is that it keeps you on your toes. Being a teacher, you have to keep up with research and up-to-date practice, and so I think it really makes me a better clinician in that, if I’m able to explain a complex topic to a medical student, it makes it easier for me to explain that information to my patients.
It’s also nice to have students come along with me when I’m seeing patient, to learn from me at the bedside. It’s a special experience to be able to share my knowledge with others and help the growth and development of young learners.
MH: I want to become an OB/GYN. What steps do I need to take to see if I’m really passionate about becoming a doctor?
PG: For starters, take advantage of opportunities like this, to talk to doctors in different specialties. You may find that OB/GYN is not what you have a passion for. You could shadow an internal medicine doctor, a pediatrician, a surgeon. Take every opportunity possible to talk to different doctors in different specialties and types of practices. There’s academic medicine, which is what I practice, and then there’s private practice, where people practice out in the community, and have a little more autonomy and control.
MH: What do you think are some qualities of being a good physician?
PG: Number one is being a caring and compassionate person. You have to empathize and connect with people and put yourself in their position. Try to understand their situations, their communities, and be able to connect with them on a personal level. It’s relatively easy to learn technical, objective information or scientific information – but the doctor-patient relationship is founded on that personal connection
So, the qualities that I would most expect to find in a good physician would be caring, compassionate, empathetic, and then knowledgeable, competent and confident – but not arrogant. Someone that you can relate to and have confidence in but not feel that they’re not approachable.
MH: Finally, why do you think that the careers in medicine are important to the future of Chicago?
PG: Wow. You can look at this as not just limited to Chicago. The health of society has so many effects on other aspects of a community, like productivity, economic development, and education. If you’re not healthy, you’re not able to contribute to your community or to your society.
Doctors play an extremely important role in maintaining and establishing healthy communities. They provide education about preventative healthcare strategies and maintaining your health. And it’s also about treating health conditions and providing access to quality providers who care about their community.
It’s extremely important that people like you want to go into the field. You know, looking at the number of minority physicians, well, it’s still an area where work needs to be done. Studies have actually shown that minority patients may do better when they have a provider that looks like them. So, it’s important to have, or to recruit, people like you who want to give back to their communities, who want to practice in their communities.
MH: Well thank you Dr. Goodall for being here and taking time out of your day.
Catch up on previous episodes of “Chicago’s Tomorrow Interviews Chicago Today,” and watch UCAN youth interview here:
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