Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pick up That Phone

I had a dream a while back. I don't remember all that much about it; it was something about handling a difficult patient, or doing something I didn't want to do but knew I should. Something like that. One of the characters in the dream was a man I'll call Dr. M, the associate director of my residency program. I woke up remembering yet again how much he meant to me.

I've been out of residency for more than 15 years now, solidly ensconced in practice. When I have questions about a diagnosis or treatment, I have a rolodex of referral specialists who have been great about answering me over the years. I know who's willing to answer general questions and which ones will hem and haw and insist on seeing the patient (so guess who I prefer to call) but I've pretty much moved past my residency faculty as a clinical resource.

But I still find them with me every day, especially Dr. M. His is the voice in my ear when I see what I'm sure is HSV but really ought to be cultured, just so the patient can be absolutely certain. I remember squinting at a sheep's blood agar plate trying to discern whether the colony of strep had a ring of beta-hemolysis and hearing his voice behind me saying, "Positive as the day is long, Dr. D; positive as the day is long." When a patient is being unreasonable, his voice in my head is the one pointing out that the patient is probably scared, worried about what I might tell him, so his belligerance isn't really directed at me. Dr. M was my ultimate model of a family physician, and I still find myself regularly thinking "What would Dr. M do in this situation?"

He's not dead. Last I heard he's the Director at another program, so I checked online and sure enough he's still there. I copied the phone number down, and early the next morning, right before I began seeing patients, I picked up the phone.

His voice was as happy and excited as I remembered. No one was ever as excited about Family Practice Service rounds every morning as Dr. M was. He asked about my kids and I about his. Then I told him why I was calling, saying something like this:
"I just wanted to let you know what an important part of my life you were -- and are. More days than not I think about what you taught me -- not just the clinical minutiae of family practice, but what it means to really be a family doctor. I find myself modelling what I do, what I say and how I say it after you. I just wanted you to know that. And I wanted to thank you."
What about you? If there's a Dr. M in your past whose voice still echoes in your head, why not just pick up the phone and make his or her day.


At Mon Sep 04, 09:37:00 PM, Blogger Fat Doctor said...

You know, the ones I really remember as making the biggest difference in my professional life were the ones I didn't like. They inspired me to be less like them. It's not really a compliment, so until I can say something nice, I'll not pick up the phone.

Just read all your posts from the beginning. Welcome! I've linked to you, as well.

At Tue Sep 05, 06:35:00 AM, Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

You're so right about that, FD, but in general it was the the specialists who made that kind of impression on me.

What's fun, though, is when they try to kiss up to me now for referrals.

Thanks for the link.

At Sat Sep 16, 06:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While not a doc, but a patient, I take time to periodically send thank you notes to my physician for the wonderful care I have been given/continue to get. We have a great "partnership". I'm sure he appreciates it; on the other hand, I always feel better myself after doing it.

I just found your great blog and am reading everything.

At Tue Sep 26, 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That goes for everyone, not just doctors. We should all say "thank you" to the people who have made a difference in our lives . . . ;o)


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