Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Jim Mclean was one of the true “gentle”men of this world. I first met Jim during orientation at Northwestern at the start of my residency and his fellowship. He came up to me with a big grin and asked if I was PM&R. When I said yes, he gave a big shout out to his buddy, Gary, stuck out his hand and introduced him and Gary as the new fellows. At that early point in residency, I had no true concept of what that meant. I didn't realize what a profound impact meeting this man would have on my life.

Jim was a wonderful man, a phenomenal teacher, a patient friend; but I will remember him most as my inspirational research mentor. I had never seen myself as a researcher. I thought I would get through residency doing the bare minimum of research allowed and leave it behind forever. I think it was sometime in the fall when Jim mentioned the research he did at Kessler - a study about women runners and patellofemoral syndrome. I have always wanted to work with women athletes, so this research topic piqued my interested. I set up a meeting with Jim and told him I would be his scut monkey and help him in anyway with his project and right off the bat he corrected me and said, "No Monica, if you're interested in this, YOU are the one that’s going to do this and I'M going to help you out in anyway."

He kept his word. He handed his IRB form over to me. Told me what "IRB" stood for and met with me every single time I hit a road block - weekends, late nights, in between patients, while eating lunch, dinner or breakfast - he was always there to help me and constantly encouraged me to keep going along. They say, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Perhaps he knew what he was doing when he took me on as his research student – I like to think that he did. What he did for me I will never be able to repay because he taught and prepared me for my lifetime. He inspired me to pursue research and to answer my own clinical questions. He showed me the nitty gritty details of staying organized and being meticulous in writing an IRB proposal. He helped me realize that answering one question just opened up the possibilities of asking 10 more questions. And he showed me how to LOVE that about research. He had pure joy in just philosophizing about all the different questions out there and how one could go about answering them. Even back then, without knowing of his untimely death, I just had to think to myself – how is this man going to find the time to do all that he wants to do. But by the end of Jim’s year at RIC, I was a believer. If anyone was going to accomplish what Jim wanted to do in his career – it was going to be someone as focused and tenacious as Jim McLean.

One of the greatest things about Jim was that he was so humble about his great value to education and the world of PM&R. He never told people what to do because he knew the right way to do things - he showed people how to do things by example. The last time I saw Jim was when he came back into Chicago for the day to be at Dr. Press’ endowed chair celebration. He had an hour before his flight and I had a few research questions to run by him. He was more than happy to talk and even stayed an extra 30 minutes to indulge my questions about applying for a fellowship. When I had realized that I was making him late for his plane, I apologized profusely and he just shrugged it off, saying that there was plenty of time left to make it to O’Hare. His nonchalant attitude about his own pressing schedule combined with his utter selflessness to help me out caused this wave of emotion over me and I just gushed out, “Jim, you are my role model and I plan on using you as that for the rest of my career, is that okay?” He just laughed me off with a sheepish grin and told me again for the millionth time that I could call him for whatever help I need - whenever.

It’s funny how life works. I had planned on using Jim as my role model for the rest of my career but I never expected that I would have to hang onto the one and a half years he gave me and the other residents at RIC and stretch that throughout my lifetime. The thing is…I can. Jim has taught me so much about how to conduct good research, how to be a great clinician, how to be a phenomenal teacher, how to be selfless, smart, dedicated, approachable, capable and responsible – it can fill my lifetime. But most of all he emphasized to me with all of his actions that if there is a will – there is a way.

Jim was the most persistent and hardest working individual I have ever met. I will never forget trying to recruit female runners at the Wrigley Field 5K with him. He was relentless in approaching women for the study and I remember being amazed for the first 5 minutes of watching him that more women didn’t shrink away from his advances. It was because Jim had such an honest aura about him. You could trust him. You knew he always meant well. They just knew he wasn’t some sketchy guy just trying to pick up their phone number. It was gentle Jim – who just wanted to rid the world of patellofemoral syndrome.
I am going to miss Jim more than he would have ever known. In the grand scheme of his life I did not know him long, but I knew in my heart that I was going to know him for a long time ahead. So I weep with all of you today for the years that I will not have my role model and I share with you all the great sense of deep loss that we feel over our friend and my mentor: Jim McLean."

Monica Rho
RIC resident

No comments: