Thank You, Frank Kretzer

Dr. Frank Kretzer, an iconic professor at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) for the last 37 years, will unfortunately be leaving his teaching position to address health issues. The current BCM medical students held a ceremony this past week to commemorate his incredible achievements. Although I wasn’t able to attend, it marked a time to reflect upon the ideals of this amazing man… the best professor I’ve ever had.

After my residency and fellowship training, I’d ideally like to pursue an academic career at BCM teaching medical students and residents. Dr. Kretzer is the quintessential example of the educator I want to emulate.

In an era of PowerPoint-based lectures, he is one of the few professors to routinely use the overhead projector, chalk board, and hand outs to facilitate lessons. Instead of simply reading slides, his lectures are well-rehearsed performances driven by an unparalleled degree of devotion and finesse. I never had such an enthusiastic professor – whether it’s his wit, idiosyncrasies, or overall persona, Dr. Kretzer’s lectures are well remembered even by those who were taught decades ago. While his methods may be controversial… and endless lists of memorization are ridiculously frustrating… his sheer passion for teaching makes me want to learn.

In addition to his outstanding lectures, he always went out of his way to supplement our education with valuable mock practicals, empowered students to reflect on our training milestones, and was always available to discuss both public and private matters. I distinctly remember receiving a phone call during winter break as an MS1:

“Rishi, it’s Frank! Great job on your histology practical!” A short conversation ensued, and his parting sentiment… in true Kretzer fashion: “Focus on resting this break. You’ll come to know God and Man through balance.” And I did. And it made me a better student.

Often referencing the works of architect I.M Pei, from the very beginning of the basic sciences, Dr. Kretzer emphasized the supreme efficiency of the human body – a structure to function relationship and doing more with less. Anyone who has studied human anatomy and physiology in depth can truly understand this basic premise and marvel at just how wonderful our inner workings are. Now as a resident, I get to take advantage of this understanding and share it with patients and their families.

To conclude, I leave you with “Flower in the Crannied Wall”, a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson often referenced by Dr. Kretzer.

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

I can only hope that he understands the impact he has had on generations of physicians and is able to spend time in the loving care of his family. Thank you, Dr. Kretzer, for everything you have done as an educator, as a mentor, and as a friend. Your efforts will continue to steer your students to forever pursue our understanding for “what God and man is.”

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