George Lister, M.D. ’73, HS ’75, spent more than 20 years on the Yale faculty as a professor of pediatrics and anesthesiology and founder and chief of the Section of Critical Care and Applied Physiology (now the Section of Critical Care Medicine). He left Yale in 2003 for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, where he holds the Robert L. Moore Chair and is the chair of Pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. 

Lister returned to Yale on May 9 to deliver the 24th annual Farr Lecture on Student Research Day. His talk was titled “Sowing Seeds for a Career in Medicine: Reflections, Projections.” 

“We bring back one of our own,” said Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Ensign Professor of Medicine, in his introduction of Lister. Alpern had lured Lister away from Yale when he was dean of the medical school in Dallas. 

In his talk, Lister recalled the things of value he had found at Yale as a medical student. “I found faculty who were accessible and invested in students,” he said. “I found faculty who valued curious and industrious learners. I found faculty who were helping students focus on figuring things out. And I was amazed by the talents of my classmates.” 

After describing his part in a national effort to determine the causes of sudden infant death syndrome and find a way to prevent it, Lister concluded by offering some of the lessons he had “learned along the way—regrettably, some more than once.”

Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, then look over your shoulder.” 

What afflicts the patient and what challenges the physician create an excitement for the doctor-patient relationship. That intersection creates a bond for the doctor-patient relationship.” 

The opportunity to learn from the patient … is really the beginning of being a physician. … Every patient interaction presents an opportunity to learn.” 

Take mastery of your education. No one else will. Instead of asking residents or attendings what to do, consider a problem; propose an approach or rationale; request affirmation.” 

Do not ignore an observation just because it disagrees with the explanation. What does not fit often provides a novel insight into a patient’s problem.” 

In medicine, not doing something erroneous is a lot smarter than doing something clever.” 

Don’t promise the patient or family what you can’t deliver. The only things you can promise are your presence and attention.” 

Sixty-four students, including nine in the M.D./Ph.D. program, presented posters at the event in The Anlyan Center. Six students—Isaac Benowitz, Noah Capurso, Tyler Durazzo, Jamie Harrington, Alexandra Miller, and Keri Oxley—made oral presentations.