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Week of March 11, 2013

Faculty Spotlight

Physician, professor ‘thoughtful’ about 
patient care

Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography.

Dr. David Aronoff sat in an exam room, listening to his patient hurry through a long list of symptoms and a medical history as if she was being timed. When she finished, the patient asked why Aronoff didn’t interrupt her.

He was listening.

“There are two talents that all physicians can bring to their patients, and they’re free and go farther than anything else we can do,” Aronoff said. “They are to listen, and to think. When physicians cut either of those activities short, patients can detect that, and that harms the doctor-patient relationship.”

It’s something many patients fear, he said: that their doctors won’t give them that thoughtfulness, and they appreciate it much more when it does happen.

“My solutions may not be better than any other physician’s, but I can see that I make an impact on their lives just by listening to them and having a thoughtful conversation about what is going on.”

Aronoff, an associate professor and medical doctor in internal medicine-infectious diseases, is not just a practicing physician; he also teaches in the Medical School and works in research laboratories. His schedule is divided into weeks spent in each of his three activities. He’ll have several weeks throughout the year, for example, where his primary responsibility is seeing patients in the hospital.

As a professor, Aronoff teaches one class each spring to first-year medical students on infectious diseases and medical microbiology, his two areas of expertise. He also teaches in the lab — how to ask the right questions and design effective experiments — and in clinics, showing residents and fellows his approach to patient care.

Aronoff also runs his own lab, which focuses on research involving microbial infections of the female reproductive tract. He knew he liked science from a young age, but didn’t have a specialty until working on his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University, where he discovered microbiology as a blend between science and medicine — his other passion.

Microbiology wasn’t the only love he found at IU. It was there where he also met his wife. They now have three children — one boy and two girls. Finding a good environment for raising their children was a major factor in the Aronoffs moving to Ann Arbor in 2002 when David accepted his current position on the U-M faculty.

Before coming to U-M, Aronoff earned his M.D. from Tufts University and did his internship, residency and fellowship at Vanderbilt University, where he will return in October as their new director of the Division of Infectious Diseases.


The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

What moment in the classroom stands out as the most memorable for you?
It’s more of a period in time. When I was an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to work in a medical research lab. That summer doing research was a very important moment for me to see how much fun being involved in discovery can be and how exciting it can be to solve important problems.

What can’t you live without?
My family. That’s the most important thing for me. I can live without my job but not without my family.

What is your favorite spot on campus?
The sidewalk area between South University and North University Avenues, east of the Diag.

What inspires you?
Patients’ bravery. They’re the ones doing all the hard work. To see people suffer and to see how brave they can be and how much courage they display really inspires me to be the best I can. I wouldn’t take care of patients if it didn’t inspire me. It’s cliché but true. It makes my challenges pretty trivial.

What are you currently reading?
“Marketing for Scientists” by Marc J. Kuchner (a book that features quotes from Dr. David Pinksy, the chief of cardiovascular medicine and a director of the Cardiovascular Center), and I am reading “The Hobbit” to my 9-year-old.

Who had the biggest influence on your career path?
My grandfather, Joseph Aronoff. He was the first physician in our family. I had a very good relationship with him and always looked up to him. He was a family practice and primary care doctor in a small town in Illinois. He showed me how special that occupation was. Our daughter Josefina is named in his honor.

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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT

Dr. David Aronoff, an associate professor and medical doctor in internal medicine-infectious diseases, on what he can't live without: "My family. That’s the most important thing for me."

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