1998 Metcalf Cup & Prize

Sharon Levine, MED

sharon-levineA former student recalls her first encounter with Professor Sharon Levine: Ignoring the heat of an August day, Dr. Levine “presented a weighty Geriatrics Syllabus.” Soon, however, Dr. Levine made it clear that this course would involve much more than books. She “drew my attention to a wall-sized map of Boston, color-coded to the home visits that she makes to care for the elderly.” This would prove to be a map to both “clinical pearls of medicine and compelling human stories.”

Medical students come to Dr. Levine skeptical about leaving high-technology clinics just to visit patients in their homes. Isn’t the house call obsolete? Deftly, Dr. Levine turns doubt into curiosity. She projects slides of patients’ bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms, and asks “What do you see?” — making students detectives in search of medical clues. Where are the hazards? Which of the prescriptions is the patient really taking? Is she answering her mail?

Then, with interns and residents packed into her car, Dr. Levine sets out on expeditions to visit her house-bound patients. On the way, she explains that Boston University’s School of Medicine has been providing home care for over one hundred years, then quizzes the students on their mastery of patients’ medical histories. On arriving, she takes in stride the bullet holes in windows and vermin in the vestibule, setting a cool-headed example for her students.

Dr. Levine’s students learn how to observe a patient in that individual’s own complex environment. Why does the patient not go outside and exercise? “She shows you the bars on the windows.” Why does the patient miss his clinical appointments? “You notice the five steep steps to the doorway.” How did the patient fracture his hip? “She scuffs at the throw rug in the dimly lit hallway.”

The curiosity planted by Dr. Levine blooms into intellectual challenge, then diagnostic insight, and finally, a sophisticated and humane medical understanding. Combining the wisdom of a country doctor with the brilliance of an advanced clinician, Dr. Sharon Levine precisely embodies that great teaching that led Arthur G. B. Metcalf to establish the Metcalf Cup and Prize.