A couple posts ago, Veronique wrote about Dr. Gregory House, a notorious television physician with a "God complex" and an ego nearly as big as Trump's. In fact, most entertainment portrayals of physicians tend to showcase the "God complex" doctor – the one we hate because of his ridiculous bedside manner – but also the one we learn to respect because of a grand intellect. Alec Baldwin as the arrogant surgeon in the movie Malice describes the complex perfectly when he states that when people pray, they aren't praying to God: "You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God."
TV has it right: there are many doctors out there who believe we deserve this type of stature. Unfortunately, what TV has wrong is that a grand intellect is not a common find. Doctors are not Gods. In Latin, doctor means "to teach" – we are teachers, not supreme beings with infinite knowledge and unlimited power. We are human and fallible.
In 1978, Martin Shapiro published a critical memoir called Getting Doctored: Critical Reflections on Becoming a Doctor. Though it predates even my birth, his observations remain relevant today. One in particular strikes a chord for me. He discusses the medical trainee walking through a long hallway – beginning with a heart full of ambitions to save lives and excitement towards patient-centered care – but as the trainee progresses down the hallway, politics begin to harden the heart until thoughts of patients are replaced by financial aspirations. Medical schools are now training medical students to step down from the pedestal and be less intimidating - more empathetic and patient focused. But who is training patients to recognize that their perspective and insight matters?
As a patient, you have a say in your own care. You know yourself best and I welcome input and constructive feedback in your care. I have always been engaged in leadership roles and a strong advocate for quality and fair patient care. Getting your input and thoughts on what qualifies as "quality," for you, will be helpful as I continue to advocate for your rights and best interests. Therefore, if you disagree with my interpretation of your symptoms or my suggested management, I hope you will share that with me. You will not be judged or put down. I want to learn from my team. You, my patient, are part of that team.
Lastly, mistakes will happen. The instinct of most doctors is to sweep mistakes under the rug rather than seeing them as opportunities to learn and grow. I have made mistakes – and I will make more. I simply hope that in forging patient-physician relationships, my patients will be honest and truthful about their goals of care – and I will do the same in return.