Every now and then, a columnist will comment on the deficiencies of American doctors when it comes to patient care. In an opinion piece published in the Denver Post of 18 June, 2009, Ellen Goodman wrote about a cardiologist who walked out of a consult because the patient’s allotted time — 15 minutes — was up. Was the consult for just 15 minutes? Did he really walk out on the patient? Who knows? I can imagine a lot of things: harried physician who thought he had enough information, a patient who needed more time and who thought she didn’t have enough information, a more pressing case to be seen, a cardiologist with a God-complex and zero bedside manners . . . . I can imagine it all, but I will never know. Chalk it up to “anecdotal evidence.”
A few days later, a response to the story (under the wince-inducing “Doctors’ labor of love”) from Heather Loughlin, aspiring doctor. I don’t know where she is in her training — premed? medical school? — but she knows enough to proclaim:
I am here to say there is light at the end of this tunnel. My peers at the University of Colorado and I are on the journey to become physicians. Many of these bright young people have been known to take communication courses just to improve an empire that has been defiled . . . .
An empire that has been defiled? Medicine is many things, but an empire? I have the suspicion that had Ms. Loughlin actually been paying attention in her history classes — or if she were a better communicator — she would have realized that the conception of empire does not have the glorious connotations she has assigned to it.
After the courses that I have taken to get where I am in pre-med, I can assure you all that the next generation of physicians will be astute, active listeners, along with being healers.
And I can assure her that she doesn’t have a clue. Yet. However, she does already possess to a remarkable degree the one thing I would have thought she would abhor: Arrogance.