Favorite Faculty: Travis Crook, M.D.
Travis Crook, M.D.
In what ways do you work with medical students on campus? Which way is your favorite?
I am involved with the medical students in a lot of different ways and love them all. I am the director for the required second-year Pediatric Clerkship where I get to work with the students on a near daily basis between doing morning reports, noon lectures, or working with them on the wards. During that clerkship, I also serve as one of the Pediatric Master Clinical Teachers, helping students learn the blend between the art and science of our profession. I also direct the Pediatric Acting Internship (the best internship at Vanderbilt, no bias) where our students really get a chance to shine and show what they can do. I am a Faculty Affiliate Advisor for Robinson College, one of the four advisory colleges (Go Ravens!). Finally, I also have the pleasure of serving as the Faculty Mentor for the Pediatric Interest Group fostering students’ passion for pediatrics and guiding students through the match process for residency. In the near future, I will be sponsoring a student-run volunteer organization (keep your ears open for this one!) and helping to lead the Students-as-Teachers longitudinal elective.
Picking a favorite is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. Each experience is unique and fulfilling in its own way. If you forced me to pick one, I would probably go with MCT. Getting one-on-one, direct, hands-on teaching at the bedside with the medical students and then very directly helping them improve as physicians is a truly rewarding experience.
How did you go about picking your specialty? Any advice?
I think I’ve always had a passion for pediatrics. I have worked with children all my life in one way or another between mentoring, teaching, leading youth groups, and coaching. Coming into medical school, pediatrics was my leaning, but I was determined to keep an open mind. I considered pursuing internal medicine and med-peds, but ultimately reaffirmed my initial inclination for pediatrics. No child should be made to suffer disease. They have no power in preventing their illnesses and minimal means helping themselves get well. They have no voice to advocate on their behalf. They are innocent and warrant protection. In my mind, there can be no higher obligation and no greater honor than healing a sick child. And there is very little that compares to watching a child who is entrusted to our care return to their playful, happy selves as they leave us and seeing the shared happiness on their parents’ faces.
My advice for students on picking a specialty is to find what makes you happy and find who makes you happy. There is no paycheck that is worth being unhappy. Find the specialty that inspires and fulfills you in the work itself and you will be content. Find the people that inspire and support you and join them in that endeavor. Think about the best times you’ve had in your clinical training and think about your favorite people in your clinical training and see if that helps guide you one way or another.
Did you have any physicians you looked up to while training? How did they inspire you?
Absolutely! Dr. Ralph D. Feigin was one of the single most inspirational people I have ever met. The author of the iconic Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Disease and spiritual architect of Texas Children’s Hospital was a giant in the field of pediatrics and the most brilliant individual I have ever encountered. But that is not what inspired me. I watched the single most important person at the hospital walk each and every floor every single day greeting all employees and staff members as he went. Cleaning service, nurses, residents, attendings, ancillary staff – all were engaged in warm conversation. And not just surface level dialogue, but specifically calling them by name, asking after children or pets by name, following up on previous conversations. It was unbelievable to watch someone care so personally and deeply about their work family and community. This has always stuck with me.
He also gave me the single best advice regarding medicine I have ever received: “Do what’s best for the patient, and you’ll never do wrong.” I have mentally referred back to this seemingly simplistic phrase countless times in my career; it has never led me astray.
What do you think is the most unique aspect of the Vanderbilt medical community and atmosphere?
The genuine nature of that community and atmosphere is truly unique. Many places tout how they support their medical students and have a tight knit community, but few truly walk it. I have rarely seen a more supportive and engaging atmosphere than the one that surrounds Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. From fellow students, to near-peer mentoring, to the faculty, all the way to the deans. Every single person is invested in not only making the students the best physicians they can be, but also in making them the best people they can be. There is nothing contrived or forced; everyone genuinely cares. When I first joined Vanderbilt, I was a little shocked about the family feeling that was pervasive throughout the School of Medicine. I thought there must be some sort of trick or fabrication. There isn’t – it’s the very real culture of support, collaboration, and encouragement that has been fostered from the very top of the leadership all the way down to the newest enrolling students. I am delighted to be able to share in that experience and contribute to that culture.