Xavier Magazine

Doctor’s Discovery: The Heart Matters Most

Dr. Brian Vaughan is in his first year of orthopedic residency at North Carolina Hospitals, but he already knows what’s at the heart of being a physician—human life.

The 1997 graduate, who finished first in his class at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, learned about the value of life—and death—in September, when he was charged with the post-operative care of an 80-year-old man suffering from pneumonia and an aortic aneurysm. The man never recovered from surgery, leaving Vaughan to discuss with family members whether to discontinue care or keep the man alive with a ventilator.

“I was very comfortable being able to discuss both sides of the issue with the patient’s family,” he says, “because Xavier gives you that compassion and ability to think. We came to the decision he would have a good death. They trusted me, but they understood their father’s wishes.”

Vaughan, 26, is just beginning his five-year residency at the Chapel Hill, N.C., hospital, which often includes 100-hour weeks. He’s learned to add a dose of coffee to his cup of perseverance, though. He’s also learned to pull from his past. His biochemistry class at Georgetown, for instance, was mostly a review of a similar class he had at Xavier, he says. And the life-and-death issues he now faces daily are simply practical applications of his philosophy, theology and ethics classes.

“All of the truly great physicians have not only been men of science,” he says, “but also men of great compassion and thought. The core curriculum at Xavier is at the heart of this process.”

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