Updated: Mar 1, 2022
I've been in practice for almost 15 years and I've witnessed some pretty intense situations. I'm not a brain surgeon, or an oncologist. I don't cut people's skull open or prescribe chemotherapy, but I’m an expert in getting to know you. I know your kids. And if you've been a patient of mine long enough, I might even know the name of your dog. We’ve probably been through a lot together. I'm "just" a family doctor, but you don’t have to feel bad for me purposely choosing to not add an extra 3 years of medical training to specialize. That was a personal choice. I wanted to be a family doctor. I chose that path on purpose.
What I like the most about being a family doctor is forming strong long-term bonds with my patients. I often think about them even when I'm not at work. They pop-up here and there in my thoughts, spontaneously distracting me from whatever I was doing. Then my wife says "what are you thinking about?", to which I reply "Nothing". I feel connected to them, and when I give them their difficult diagnosis, I feel it too. How can doctors keep working day in and day out when most of the news they deliver is bad?
For me, the joy that my patients feel when they succeed at lifestyle changes justifies it. I feel those emotions too. Don't get me wrong, 85% of patient encounters aren't particularly joyful, but the 15% of appointments that lead to a positive outcome, like a patient losing 20 pounds, or putting out his last cigarette, takes much more weight off my shoulders than the cancers put on. That’s why I've grown to love giving preventative counselling. After years of trial and error, I now use my energy wisely. I get an intuitive sense of a patient's readiness to change, and interrogate his conviction that the change will benefit him, and his confidence of being able to succeed. I tend to invest more time in patients that are ready, convinced and confident. A patient who is guided in a personalized way and supported without judgement is much more likely to succeed.