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Sunday, June 16, 2013

More than just a patient.

As I was driving back to Edmond from Arkansas, I dropped off a couple of posters at the coffee shop where I'll be having a book signing next weekend, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And I noticed a billboard - or rather, I didn't notice it the first time, as it made no impression on me - but then, as I saw it the second time, it struck me first as odd. But as I sped past it, getting on the highway, its message really got under my skin. And I thought about it all the way home, and what it meant.

Now it's not really much of a billboard, and I doubt that the vast majority of people going down the same highway even thought about it. It showed a couple of obviously healthy children playing, and the caption read, "More than just another patient. St John's Medical Center." More than just another patient??? Now why would I be upset over this?

Well, let me explain.

First of all, as a physician (as opposed to a "provider," or a "prescriber," or whatever term is now most politically correct), I took offense at the notion of "just another patient," as being somehow demeaning or derogatory. And this stems from my own background. As I see it, a patient is something of a sacred obligation to me. And the physician-patient relationship is something that I hold close to my own Hippocratic heart. The physician-patient relationship is something that goes way back in medicine - to even before the time of Galen or Hippocrates. It is a relationship that, over the millenia, has been blessed as special, in much the same way as a parent-child or teacher-student relationship also carries the burden of historical significance.

And what has happened to that relationship, to that bond, over the past twenty years? As people of the now generation, what they see as significant has nothing to do with relationships, and everything to do with whatever pleases them. And this includes issues related to medical care. And it is precisely this gradual decline of the physician-patient bond which has driven me to seek employment elsewhere. For if I can no longer be a physician to a patient in need, at least I can do this dance close to my own grandchildren, with whom I do have a relationship. And, yes, I can do the dance for another few years, before retirement.

And what of my books? Do they have anything to do with all this? They most assuredly do. I wrote the novel(s), called The Book of Drachma, as something of a reaction to what I saw happening to medicine. You have Dr. Robert Gilsen, one of the last of his breed, and also you have nurse Judy Morrison, one of the last of her breed, as two of the major characters. Now they get whisked off to the fifteenth century, where medicine is vastly more primitive. But in this realm of Craycroft and Cartho (and Paracelsus - see my previous post), you also have established physician-patient relationships which are more true to the original concept, and unsullied by our more "modern" notions of "you get what you pay for."

And if you happen to be in the Tulsa area, or know of someone who is going that way let them know that I'll be at the Agora Coffee House (in the Fontana Shopping Center at 50th St and Memorial Rd) on Saturday from 1:00 PM til whenever. And I'll be more than happy to share a great cup of coffee, and discuss whatever happened to medicine. And, believe me, the discussions could get lively.

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