Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Case Presentation

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 14, 2012

My “play class” continues, shifting from reading articles to presenting cases. Seven students, all in their tenth year of post-graduate education, are put in the vulnerable position of talking about their experiences working with one particular child. The potential for humiliation, in front of their peers, in particular, is huge. Likewise, the opportunity to impress each other is also available. The anxiety can interfere with the quality of the presentation, and of course, may not reflect the quality of the student’s work. On the other hand, these students have been presenting cases for many years, to many attendings. They are well rehearsed in this area of summarizing a patient’s history and presenting the story in a coherent and pertinent way. Now, it is my turn to present a case. It is my turn to demonstrate my experience, while still protecting confidentiality. I am brought back to the days of my past. I look forward to hearing what others say about my clinical challenge, while at the same time, I hope I can convey an experience which is both verbal and non-verbal. In the case of child work, there are more players, and hence more dynamics to anticipate and explain. I hope to convey both confidence and humility, this subtle combination which is easily mistaken for arrogance and/or insecurity. This misunderstanding could be a result of the “intersubjective space” between me and my students. This is the space which has our unconscious processes which could want to idealize me and/or devalue me. More likely, we will have an interesting discussion which is not fraught with challenging feelings. Stay tuned.

2 Responses to “Case Presentation”

  1. Shelly said

    Why would your students want to devalue you? I thought you were teaching your students in an elective course? What is an experience that is both verbal and non-verbal?

    • Shirah said

      The idea that I was trying to convey is that education, by definition, is a humiliating experience, on one level, and enhancing on another. It is not that my students consciously want to de-value me, but it is that on an unconscious level, there can be a rivalry between student and teacher. I am speaking generally, not specifically. Whether the course is elective or not, does not change the issue about unconscious competition. As with all communication, there are both verbal and non-verbal elements. Thanks, as always.

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