William Jennings admits he had a philosophical motivation for becoming a doctor. “I saw it as a chance to do something of value for others,” he says. “The opportunity for lifelong learning was also a factor.” He specializes in oncology, hematology and palliative care. Although he recently changed his teaching status to semi-retired, Jennings has been an instructor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine for 25 years. “I love seeing students mature and grow,” he says. “And their developing humanity and watching them learn to communicate with patients and seeing their approach to problem-solving and their enthusiasm about what they’re doing.” Jennings continues to co-instruct a physician, patient and society course at the school.
In addition to his instructional role, Jennings also works at Truman Medical Center in the hemophilia clinic and at the Pratt Regional Medical Center (Cancer Center of Kansas) in Pratt, Kan., for two weeks each month. “I’m from Hutchinson, Kan., and my mother’s side of the family is from Pratt. I’ve been going down there my whole life,” says Jennings.
His career has been immersed in his specialty. “Hematology and medical oncology and the integration of palliative care principles in that practice have been my focus for a long time,” he says, “and I feel challenged by it. Really, it’s the relationships. It’s all about the relationship with patients and the field of nurses and people I work with.” The key to successful care in his field, he explains, is the team approach, involving physicians, nurses, social workers, pastoral care staff and pharmacists. “It’s not just one patient, one physician. It’s looking to address some of these issues with patients earlier than when you’re in the final stages.”