When Robert Hollander, M.D., an adjunct assistant professor in the department of medicine, was announced as the winner of the coveted Hippocratic award, his first reaction was disbelief.
“This was unexpected,” Hollander said standing behind the lectern adjacent to the young Hippocratic tree on May 7 at Wilmot Gardens. “The reason why I look forward to Monday mornings is because I look forward to seeing the medical students who are ready to be challenged and to make that interaction.”
Originally established by the 1969 graduating class, the award is presented each year to “a faculty member who is not only an outstanding teacher but who is also a mentor, a role model and, in essence, a person our students feel like they could emulate in their career,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine.
The word “Hippocratic” refers to the Greek father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who was well remembered for his teaching and contributions to medicine. The recipients’ names are recognized on a plaque that sits below the transplanted cutting of a sycamore tree given to UF from the Greek government in 1969. This tree, known as the Hippocratic tree, was a cutting from a tree on the island of Kos under which Hippocrates supposedly once taught.
Hollander may not have expected the honor, but the students who selected him knew they made the right choice.
Josh Cohen, this year’s class president, spoke of Hollander’s willingness to relate to patients, a quality that every physician should strive to perfect.
“Dr. Hollander is a special individual. He is truly a one-of-a-kind physician,” Cohen said. “When he walks into a room he doesn’t leave until all of the patients’ questions are answered and he’s had a chance to brighten their day with a factoid or tidbit from the daily news.”
Shazia Mohammad, a senior in the College of Medicine, agreed.
“Whenever he wants to establish a personal connection he always does a phenomenal job with the patients,” Mohammad said. “He may just simply ask them why they got a tattoo or where they served in the army.”
Cohen also said that same personable attitude is reflected in Hollander’s teaching style.
“My fellow classmates who have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Hollander all agree that any period of time working with him was defining,” Cohen said. “He conveys knowledge with humility and focus. He teaches in a way that sticks, and he really wants all of us to be the best we can be, not just in the hospital but at home as well.”
But, after the praise given from his students, Hollander was quick to give the credit back to the future professionals in the graduating class.
“Clinical teaching, as many of you aspire to do, is really meaningless as a solitary experience and it can only exist within the framework of the word ‘team,’” Hollander said. “It’s not the action of clinical teaching that has any meaning, it’s the interaction. That is what clinical teaching is all about, and for that, I thank you all.”
The praised professor left with closing words to the students wanting to follow in his footsteps.
“All the hard work and intellectual curiosity that brought you to this point and got you through medical school, don’t leave it behind, “ Hollander said. “Don’t stop doing what you did to get to this point. It’s easy to do. When the forces of residency aspire to keep the humanity out of you, don’t let it happen.”