Are physicians the stewards of healing that they are meant to be? 

I am a board-certified endocrinologist, and I have been in practice for 15 years. I have seen and helped thousands of patients with various endocrine disorders over the years, and I have really gotten to understand in depth the conditions that I have specialized in.

Approximately one year ago, after I have learned about the Ideal Medical Care movement, I have decided to join and open my own private practice. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. I left the system that was comfortable to become a small business owner. I left the (imagined) protection that practicing in a large established group, under the umbrella of two local hospitals confers, to pursue my dream of practicing the way I always wanted to practice. To be the doctor I always wanted to be, a doctor who empowers and inspires, not the patronizing authority that a lot of our training has pushed us to become. To escape the revolving door of insurance-driven medical care and be the doctor who is present, available for her patients, and gives from a place of genuine care and concern, not from a place of fear and resentment.

My new clinic is a dream come true. I call it (in my mind) “The Mutual Admiration Society.” I admire my patients’ grit, their tireless quest for answers, their desire to become healthier, and in turn, better humans. I think (and many of them told me so) they admire me, too. I love my little clinic so much that on the days when I feel tired, or my body is aching, I walk into my clinic, and I feel better. I think of it as a healing place.

I practice conventional medicine in many ways, but I also integrate other modalities that I have found useful over the years. I recommend meditation and yoga, journaling, and pausing. I monitor my patients’ sleep, and their blood sugar with various sensors, and I give them feedback often (we have stretches of time when we communicate a few times a day) on their parameters, so they can manage their health better. I am the doctor I wish I had when I had my own health challenges.

Just last week, one of my dearest patients, a 16 year old with a thyroid condition reported symptoms that made it clear that she needed surgery, which is not something I was trained to do, so I had to refer out. I referred her to one of the local medical institutions, a huge local name, just because prior to going into practice on my own, when I was part of the large group, this is where I used to refer my patients for surgery. The experience that my patient had and reported to me was terrifying. From the first step she set in the Big Name clinic, she experienced nothing but rude, arrogant, condescending, and insensitive comments and behavior. Of course, the fact that she was seeing a “back-alley” doctor as an endocrinologist (as a lot of the doctors in private practice are seen these days) did not help. A doctor who recommends dietary interventions and knows her patient’s life and family in intimate detail, who actually spends time listening to the patient and the family and tries to make sense of the whole picture- not a welcome sight for the Big Name clinic doctors.

The patient and her mother were dismissed in a rude and abrupt fashion; her symptoms were discarded; her quest for answers was trashed. She was made to feel small, insignificant, ignorant. She was recommended to never see her fringe doctor again and to just go to the Big Name Clinic for treatment.

What has become of medicine today? What has become of the sacred patient-physician relationship? What has become of medical offices- aren’t they supposed to be healing places? Who goes to a medical clinic (no matter how Big the Name) to be insulted and diminished and hurt? What has become of physicians as stewards of healing?

Why is this happening to us?

How much have we been hurt, as doctors, to not be able to see past our own ego and agenda and use our hard-earned healing potential to harm instead of soothe and heal?

I do not have answers, unfortunately, only questions. I can only hope that living my life with dignity and respect for my patients and myself will somehow have an effect on the world and the way medicine is practiced. I often think that I am too small to make a difference, but then again, “if you think you’re too small to make a difference, spend the night in a room full of mosquitoes.”

Corina Fratila is an endocrinologist.

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