Renowned educator launches Profiles in Professionalism series

Medical students seeking a role model as they launch their careers should consider looking outside the realm of healthcare and instead turn to the late John Wooden, long-time UCLA men’s basketball coach, suggested Dr. Richard Gunderman at a campus lecture last month.

It should come as no surprise that Gunderman would find inspiration from Wooden, who is a legend in his home state of Indiana, where Gunderman also calls home. Gunderman, professor of radiology, pediatrics and medical education at Indiana University, is a renowned educator and lecturer. He was the inaugural speaker at BCM’s Center for Professionalism in Medicine lecture series, Profiles in Professionalism.

Profiles in Professionalism

Dr. Richard Gunderman talks to students about professionalism.

“You can only be as good as the people you admire, so find the best people to look up to. I would suggest that John Wooden is one such person from who we can learn to be a better person,” Gunderman said.

Gunderman noted that despite enough trophies and awards to fill up an entire room, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Wooden remained humble and valued learning from those around him. One of the winningest college basketball coaches in history, including 10 NCAA national championships, Wooden lived until age 99, spending his final years in a 700 square foot condominium in Encino, Calif. One of Wooden’s favorite quotes was, “When I am through learning, then I am through.”

Students can learn an important lesson from Wooden’s example – that to be a professional is to want to excel not for awards and appointments and the trappings of success such as fine cars, but because excellence is important for its own sake.

Wooden extolled the concept of team and performing well because you care about others around you and want to help them perform at their best. When asked once how many championships Kobe Bryant was likely to win during his career, Wooden’s response was “None. Kobe Bryant doesn’t win championships, the Lakers do.”

“John Wooden wanted his players to help each other perform at their best. How much of that do they teach at medical school,” Gunderman posed.

The coach cultivated an atmosphere of excellence and, in turn, his players, including Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabar) and Bill Walton, wanted to be at their best for their coach.

“How would you like to be a person who when you walk into a room, people want to perform better,” Gunderman said. By following Wooden’s example, maybe some of the students in the audience would be fortunate enough to attain that sort of respect in their own careers, he added.

Gunderman gave two other talks on campus, to program directors and to faculty. The Profiles in Professionalism lecture series is just one initiative of the newly created Center for Professionalism in Medicine. The center was the idea of President and CEO Dr. Paul Klotman when he joined Baylor, and got off the ground in January with the appointment of Dr. Ellen Friedman as director of the Center. Read more about the Center for Professionalism.