When I transitioned from a practicing physician and began my new job as a full-time patient, I was lost. Being on the patient side of the medical complex proved to be a daunting task, one I was not prepared for despite my 40 plus years of working as a physician. As my journey took me from one doctor’s office to another, I quickly realized that my education as a physician was sorely lacking in one very important area. “A Doctor’s Journey Into Illness, Lessons Learned” will address those areas where my education was deficient and propose changes to medical curriculums aimed at improving patient care by providing future physicians with the tools necessary to truly understand and treat the effects of disease as experienced by the patient with said illness.
When I retired and moved to North Carolina, I was forced to leave the comfort of a medical complex I was intimately familiar with and start anew with physicians who were totally unknown to me. It was as if I was ill for the first time and had to learn my way around the medical world from scratch. In writing this book, I did extensive research establishing relationships with a Gerontologist, Gastroenterologist, Orthopedic Surgeon, Neurosurgeon, Movement Disorder Specialist (neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s), Physiatrist, Otolaryngologist, Pulmonary Specialist, Dermatologist and Podiatrist. I also had to learn the ins and outs of two hospital systems, Atrium and Novant.
If it sounds ridiculous to you, it is because it is ridiculous. Yes, my health has deteriorated with problems in multiple organ systems. Along the way, I have met physicians that I would rank among the best I have known and physicians who were not nearly as good as I require to be part of my health care team. As you read the pages of this book, I will introduce you to various traits that this group of physicians have that make them either the best of the best or put them in the not-so-great category.
Defining the traits that make a physician good or not-so-good is not my intent, nor will it help future physicians to be better at caring for patients. Afterall, who is good and who is not-so-good are highly subjective. My hope and fervent desire is to propose a change to medical school curriculums that will address the differences in these physicians’ practices and enhance patient diagnosis and care in such a way that its benefits are sufficient to have medical schools adopt it.
Let me give you a general overview of my proposal. Fourth year medical students would become patients and be given scripts that lay out their medical histories, signs, and symptoms. As much as possible, they are to act as if they have the disease. First year residents would then see them or actors, as if they were actual patients. Their exam and care would not be scripted. All interactions would be filmed and then the films would be viewed and critiqued by the class and the professor. The goal is to understand what a patient experiences when ill and seeing a physician and how the things physicians do, from the minute they walk into the exam room influences until they leave the room, effect the patient/physician relationship.
As my writing progresses, I will be publishing excerpts from the book on this blog and look forward to your input and any stories you have that might help patients, students and doctors navigate our healthcare system.
Here’s today’s joke:
I was walking down the street when I was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless man who asked me for a couple of dollars for dinner.
I took out my wallet, extracted ten dollars and asked,”If I give you this money, will you buy some beer with it instead of dinner?”
“No, I had to stop drinking years ago,” the homeless man replied.
“Will you use it to go fishing instead of buying food?” I asked.
“No, I don’t waste time fishing,” the homeless man said..”I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive.”
“Will you spend this on hunting equipment?” I asked.
“Are you NUTS!” replied the homeless man. “I haven’t gone hunting in 20 years!”
“Well,” I said, “I’m not going to give you money. Instead, I’m going to take you home for a shower and a terrific dinner cooked by my wife.”
The homeless man was astounded. “Won’t your wife be furious with you for doing that?
I replied, “Don’t worry about that. It’s important for her to see what a man looks like after he has given up drinking, fishing and hunting.”