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Thursday, October 29, 2009

What an Honor It Is to Belong to the Family of Physicians

A wonderful post from a family doctor in California who despite the daily drudgery and abuse that he no doubt endures daily in a busy practice is able to eloquently share his thoughts and uplift the spirits of many of us who feel unappreciated in today's healthcare environment.

What an honor it is to belong to the family of Physicians.

It's Saturday afternoon and from the window of my office I see an Oncology practice where the physician comes in on Saturday to see patients. I see his head down as he goes from his office over to the hospital. I see his step grow a little shorter each day as he struggles to keep up with the work. He has shared with me how difficult it is to keep the practice going. With the new reimbursement for chemotherapy, many of the agents he gives in the office cost more than the reimbursement.

I see another office of cardiologists. They seem to come and go at all hours. I see them there late at night, going between their office and back to the hospital. I always feel apologetic when I call them with yet another case that I need their help with because of the complexity of the patient. How grateful I am for their dedication and professionalism. Never have they just said no. Even though I know they won't be making it home to their daughters performance tonight, I still call them with cases when I need help. Their sacrifice, like mine is personal.

Across the parking lot I see an office of surgeons. There are days that the parking lot is rather empty as they are in surgery most of those days. One of my good friends has worked with that group. The part of the story not reflected in the parking lot, is the many hours they spend in the middle of the night, caring for yet another patient needing their skill. Many of these late night cases do not have insurance and many of them require long hours of dedication. What dedicated men and women these surgeons are to come in and work three or four hours through the night, trying to get someone through surgery. When morning finally arrives they have a full day awaiting their attention, compassion and skill. Some of them drive nice cars but somehow I don't think it really helps at the end of the day when they return home to find their family sleeping at a late hour.

There's a group of obstetricians and gynecologists at the end of the parking lot. Never have I felt that their lifestyle was something I would desire. I remember assisting them at C-sections and found that we would do one or two almost every night when I was on call. The funny thing with those late-night surgeries is that when morning arrives, you don't get to go home and take a nap. Somehow the rest of the world expects them to work through the next day as if nothing happened. I have five wonderful children and I can thank them for their dedication and professionalism in doing their job.

We are a very special community. No one in our society really understands what we do, nor do they understand the sacrifices we make as we obtain our training and practice our profession. Only another physician really understands the lengths to which this profession reaches into our personal lives and removes little pieces of us each and every day as we give of our time, intellect, compassion and dedication.

I for one, am proud to be a member of such a community. I feel a tremendous sense of brotherhood with other physicians, be they radiologists, pathologists, cardiologist or oncologists. All of us have made similar sacrifices. Some of us have continued training another three, four or five years longer than others who share the same title of Doctor. Ultimately, we all belong to the same organization of healers, dedicating our lives, our talents, and our abilities in caring for others.

I've not met a physicians who was in this for the money. What an amazing group of individuals we are.I reject the concept that there is a limited pool of resources that must be divided up among the different specialties. Each one of us provides a valuable service to complement what the other does. None of us could work very long in this arena by ourselves. We need each other and we complement each other. We actually work well together in providing care and sustaining life.

I salute my colleagues who answer my calls when I need a specialist to help me with a complicated case. I give you only the hardest cases as the ones that I can figure out, I keep myself. How grateful I am to have learned colleagues so willing to assume the responsibility for cases that I have not been able to either figure out or provide what they need due to my limited training.As a profession, we need to remind ourselves that we all share in the healing arts.

We must all reject the concept that for primary care reimbursements to go up, there must be a balanced reduction in the reimbursement to specialists. Only a politician would subscribe to this concept. Clearly, we can do more to ensure cost effectiveness in the system. We've never really been asked to contribute to that by providing peer review of interventions that perhaps may not warrant the expenses. Those decisions are now being made by insurance companies, with executives who care little for the health of their clients.

If the system is going to be overhauled at all, and if we are ever to successfully reform the way medicine is delivered, now is the time. For those of you who think that we should sit back and wait and see what happens, I would say that it is unlikely there will come a time where there is more interest in healthcare than that which we find right now.

Over the next few years, this reform will spell perhaps disaster and perhaps opportunity. Now is the time for us as physicians to link arms and band together as a profession to support one another. No more infighting which serves only to strengthen the arms of those who provide no health care at all yet bleed the system dry.

I for one, will be sending out thank you cards to the specialists I work with this next week, letting them know how grateful I am for their support and their care. I invite all of us to do the same. Reach out and connect as we reestablish the bond that we all share. All of us love the practice of medicine. We enjoy the challenge and the intellectual reward that we receive by the practice of our art. We truly do enjoy helping those around us in ways that few people would understand. What a great profession we have and what dedicated men and women we serve with.

Let's close ranks and support one another and provide a beacon of hope for America over the next year as we speak out and address the issues. True form will come from our experience and our leadership. Before we step into those leadership positions though, let's make sure that we as a profession maintain the respect for one another that we all deserve.What an honor it is to be part of this community who practice the healing arts.

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