Mentoring a Generation of Medical Students

When John R. Beljan, M.D., the first dean of the medical school, reached out to physicians in the Dayton community in 1975 asking them to serve as volunteer faculty, Gideon Adegbile, M.D., FAAFP, didn’t hesitate to accept the call to serve as a preceptor.

Since then, he has been teaching and mentoring medical students. He is the longest-serving active volunteer faculty member, serving as a clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. The school’s charter class began its studies in 1976 and graduated in 1980.

“The new medical school at  Wright State University needed physicians who were willing to allow medical students to shadow them as they met with patients,” said Adegbile, who is now 76 years old. “That was something in which I wanted to be involved. I wanted to teach and share with young people to help make an impact in the community.”

The medical school has appreciated Adegbile’s commitment to teaching medical students.

“Dr. Adegbile has given very freely of his time and expertise and served as an exemplary role model for a generation or more of Wright State medical students in family medicine and the treatment of addiction,” said Albert F. Painter, Jr., Psy.D, associate professor of family medicine and psychiatry and associate dean of faculty affairs at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. “He is the most humble, self-effacing man you’ll ever meet. I have never seen him without a smile on his face. He is truly a happy human being.”

Painter first met Adegbile when he joined the medical school faculty in 1978. “Dr. Adegbile is a great listener. He is incredibly compassionate and understanding,” said Painter, who has known Adegbile for four decades. “He is one of the best examples in medicine that we want our students to follow.”

He described Adegbile as the example of giving back. “The hallmark of any profession is giving back to the ranks of students coming up behind you,” Painter said. “He is worthy of recognition.”

Adegbile has made an impact on more than 70 Wright State medical students as they shadowed him throughout his career during six-week clerkships. One student, Cheryl Robinson, M.D., ’82, first met Adegbile in 1978.

At the time, Adegbile was president of the Gem City Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Society. Robinson recalls that Adegbile showed leadership not only in the medical community but also in his church, fraternal organization and the local Nigerian community. Adegbile is originally from Nigeria, but he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, cum laude, from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, and his M.D. degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed his postgraduate training at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton. He began his medical career in 1973 as a physician in private practice in family medicine in West Dayton, where he practiced for many years. Robinson spent time shadowing him at his office, met his family, and became familiar with the patient population that she would spend her career serving.

“My observations of Dr. Adegbile, as his student and later as his medical practice partner for 25 years, helped me to understand that this doctor’s life experiences and fundamental beliefs underlaid his approach to his patients,” Robinson said. “It was not a learned skill, but an honest respect and love for humanity that shaped his words and guided his hand.”

She recalls Adegbile providing care to a patient who had multiple sclerosis. The patient’s condition was declining, but Adegbile thought a new injection therapy would help. Insurance refused to cover the medication. “So he continued to provide the injections, having the cost taken directly from his salary,” Robinson said.

She also remembers how he cared for residents of a group home for developmentally disabled adults. “I did not see that his treatment of them varied from that of the judges and socialites in his care,” she said.

In 1987, he became medical director of Project C.U.R.E., Inc., in Dayton, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation program that provides services to people with substance abuse problems in Montgomery County. Robinson recalled seeing him helping people, providing Methadone for those who were trying to stay off heroin, decades before the current opioid epidemic. “These were people in need of health care, just as any other population,” Robinson said.

Adegbile said that the need for treatment and support is great. “Because of my expertise and experience, I feel that I can contribute,” said Adegbile, who retired from active family medicine practice in 2007 but continues to serve as medical director of Project C.U.R.E. and mentor medical students in addiction treatment. “To be able to prevent deaths, educate people, and treat them is very rewarding.”

During Robinson’s medical student days and later when she practiced with Adegbile, she saw him visit patients when they were sent to area nursing homes, letting them know that they had not been forgotten. He also served as medical director of area nursing homes and was a visiting physician for patients who were elderly, housebound or disabled. “Dr. Adegbile still does home visits,” she said. “Sometimes the holding of a hand is all that can be done.”

He was there for Robinson when she lost one of her patients. “His belief in my worth as a physician gave me the support I needed to persevere and serve with a new dedication.”

After he retired from active family medicine practice in 2007, Robinson inherited many of Adegbile’s patients who continue to ask about him. “They let me know that they had a real doctor in Dr. Adegbile,” Robinson said. “Through him, I know what that means, and that is what I will continue striving to become.”

As Adegbile reflected on the 42 years that he has served as a preceptor and mentor to medical students, he said that he strived to teach them about care and compassion.

“Being a physician is not only taking care of the complaints and ailments of the patient, but it is also about taking care of the total person,” said Adegbile, who served the Montgomery County Medical Society in Dayton as a trustee in 1978, secretary in 1988 and president in 2002. “I wanted the medical students to understand that we treat patients with compassion and care.”

He taught his medical students to listen with compassion and feel for the patient. “Do what is right for the patient,” said Adegbile, who also served as chief of staff at Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Dayton in the 1990s and was a member of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas and the National Medical Association. “You listen beyond their pain to really care for the patient as a whole person. That is medicine.”

In addition to his role as a clinical professor at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Adegbile also served as a member of the board of the Wright State University Academy of Medicine from 1999 to 2003. The Academy of Medicine is a community-based service organization dedicated to supporting excellence in medicine through education, research, and service. The organization supports medical education by providing student loans and awarding student and faculty achievement.

He also is passionate about his role with the Wright State University Horizons in Medicine program. Since 1979, he has served as co-chair of the program, which offers Dayton-area high school students, mostly from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds, the opportunity to prepare for careers in science and health care, get shadowing experience, and earn a college scholarship. More than 600 Dayton-area high school students have completed Horizons in Medicine, with more than 90 percent entering college and approximately 80 percent graduating from college. Many Horizons alumni are now physicians, and several former Horizons participants are currently enrolled in medical school at the Boonshoft School of Medicine.

“We wanted to encourage minorities to attend medical school,” he said. “We are very proud of the program. Every dean has supported that program wholeheartedly.”

— Heather Maurer


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