A Conversation with Preceptor Dr. Michelle Kem Su Hor

Written by Catherine Lewis Saenz

Last month, we caught up with Michelle Kem Su Hor, MD, a preceptor to many of RVU’s osteopathic medical students. Dr. Hor spoke about scholarships, her cannabis research, and what it’s like to be the “mama” to so many third- and fourth-year students.

Dr. Hor receiving an award in 2019

Dr. Hor has been a preceptor with Rocky Vista University for 10 years, working with rotating students at her gastrointestinal medical practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she specializes in esophageal disorders, liver disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. She is also affiliated with UCHealth Grandview Hospital and UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central.

In addition to her duties as a physician and preceptor, Dr. Hor has cultivated a partnership with the Lily Pearl Foundation, which she describes as a generous foundation that, quite simply, wants to help medical students. With the funds provided by the foundation, Dr. Hor has been able to allocate money for students to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and, in particular, the coveted N95 masks. With additional funding to her gastrointestinal (GI) lab, Dr. Hor is also able to provide PPE to rotating students, including N95 masks, surgical caps, surgical face shields, gowns, and shoe covers. Dr. Hor also has funds set aside for students that need a scrub jacket and has already given out 30-40 jackets.

As far as her research into the medical applications for cannabis, Dr. Hor has recently published a book with collaboration from others all around the world. The book, entitled “Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach,” provides information about cannabis with regards to health, the health of the patient, as well as educational information for the public, healthcare providers, and patients. RVU students contributed to the GI chapter by writing specific sections and conducting research online, all under the guidance of Dr. Hor. The students and one graduate – Aaron Wu, OMS IV; James Frazier, OMS IV; Preston Root, OMS IV; Quentin Remley, OMS III, and Monica Dzwonkowski, DO ’20 – also put together a cannabis poster entitled “Chronic Cannabis users are associated with lower BMI and decrease in obesity rates.” They received a $500 scholarship and acceptance into the American Gastroenterology National Meeting.

In late December, RVU interviewed Dr. Hor about her experiences as a preceptor and working with medical students from RVUCOM.

Funding for PPE was provided by the Lily Pearl Foundation for students

What is your most memorable experience as a preceptor?

“A student came to me in the last month of rotation and I didn’t feel comfortable passing them because the knowledge base was not where I thought a fourth-year student should be. I spent every night working with her. When the month ended–and of course I was in touch with the school and the school knew we were doing that–she was up to par with her peers. She did better than I thought. It was awesome! Things can be done if you push, push, push. She had some problems that no one knew about and, having those maternal instincts, I could tell. When she graduated, she went up the podium and took her diploma, I was sitting in the first few rows and I actually cried. When she came down the aisle, we hugged so hard. That was a memorable moment of being a preceptor and happy…[to see] my student graduate.”

What advice do you have for medical students during their externships?

“I always tell them this is your third year and the time where you learn the best. When it comes to the fourth year, you are so busy interviewing and you can’t concentrate, so this is the time where you put your best foot forward and learn. This is the best training you will get the entire year. It’s the most important year. Confidence…is something the medical students need, so I give them that experience.”

What inspired you to become a physician and/or preceptor?

“I was a charge nurse working in the ICU and the cardiovascular surgeons noticed that I did very well as a critical care nurse and advised me to change my major in college to pre-med, thinking I would be a good doctor.

I love teaching and I like to pass along my knowledge to the next generation of doctors, who I believe are the future leaders of our community. I want to pass off my hat to them instead of taking it with me.”

Any other things you’d like to share?

“I think RVU students are really fantastic and I’m okay with them calling me ‘mama’. Once they are my students, they are always my students and I will always take care of them. Even after they graduate, they still text me and ask me for my advice. They look at me like I’m their mother. So not only do I make sure they have a good rotation with me and they get everything they deserve with the one-month rotation, I make sure that they eat and sleep well and that they take care of themselves. All of that comes in with the PPE and the warm coats; I guess that’s the maternal instinct to take care of the students. I love the students. I really love them!”

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