First, let me tell you that, if I could do it all over again, I would still be a doctor. I would still move to Lake Zurich and would still have had an walk-in, open door policy. Yes there are things I would change, but the basics would be the same.
Second, I have led a gifted life. In telling you the truth about being a doctor, I am not looking for sympathy but instead, I am looking to bring you and your future doctors into a closer patient-doctor relationship, one that might be strong enough to actually change the future of medicine in the US.
THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE IS DISMAL! Medicare for all is not the solution. Medicare for all is the end of humane medical care! Just look north to Canada to get an idea of what’s coming.
Now, back to my story. It starts when I was seven years old and had a sore throat and fever. Dr. P. came to my house to care for me. I remember Dr. P’s visit as every time he made a house call, I got a shot in the buns. Dr. P. was a general practitioner. There were no family docs in 1958.
Dr. P. was a respected member of the community. Many placed him on a pedestal. Afterall, he delivered your babies, cared for your family, took out your gallbladder and did birth to death care for your extended family. Most importantly to you, he helped create the doc that took care of you for the last 34 years.
Dr P’s office was like mine, first come first served. Dr. P’s wife worked in the office, as did mine. Dr. P made you wait your turn, as did mine. I never heard anyone complain about the wait. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities ended.
By the time I hung out my shingle, the world had begun to change. The respected position that Dr P’s cronies occupied had already begun to crumble. My colleagues and I mortgaged our futures to pay for medical school. We gave up our 20s to gain the education and credentials needed to answer their calling, and it only got worse. We found that in order to pay our overhead and make a living wage, we had to work 80 hour weeks.
Today’s graduate has $400,000 or more in debt. The dream of owning their own practice is gone! Today’s physician is an employee whose rules are set by the corporation that employs him. Medicine is now a big business and those of us with a calling, drown trying to fight the current that pushes us further and further into the computer monitor that sits between the patient and his/her doc.
I’ve gotten off track. Every time I told Dr. P. that I was going to be a doc like him and join his practice, he told me that the practice of medicine was changing, and I should find something better to do with my life. I ignored him. I’m glad I did.
By the time I graduated, health issues had forcibly retired Dr. P. Again, I followed in his footsteps. I opened my own office. My wife ran it and, in the end, struggled to keep us financially afloat. And, in the end, health issues retired me. Strangely enough, Dr. P. has Parkinson’s as do I.
Is your doctor rich? Everyone assumes he/she is. Everyone (including his/her staff) assumes that docs rake in the cash. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Yes, physicians make a good income, but they work long hours (I often worked an 80-hour week), spend a great deal of time away from the family while on call, and have massive debt to service. Oh yeah, they still have to deal with life and death situations on a daily basis as well.
Well, I got off track again. I’ll resume tomorrow. I hope you will stick with me as I think giving you an understanding of who your doc is will help you work with your doc to improve everyone’s lives.