I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.
Never a writer.
With a new year and a new decade, I am determined to become a better writer not because of some childhood dream or expectation from others, but because of a near mishap that occurred at the beginning of 2000. A simple phone call changed the destiny of my brother from having a good outcome to having a great outcome. A simple phone call may have been the difference between “you are cancer free” to “I’m sorry to tell you it’s come back.”
It was a medical error that was avoided only because I was a doctor who was engaged to an oncologist and because my brother simply called me the night before his surgery. Based on his diagnosis, his surgeon should have referred him to an orthopedic oncologist, a musculoskeletal cancer surgeon, to perform curative surgery. Only two exist in the entire state of Connecticut. Instead, the surgeon opted to do the surgery himself even though he admitted he didn’t know what the diagnosis meant.
A simple phone call the night before made the difference between being told that unfortunately your cancer came back to you are cancer free.
What if you had the knowledge to make a difference to save lives? What if you could see the problems that others don’t or refuse to see? Would you feel compelled to intervene? I write and communicate this information because our healthcare system, the doctors and hospitals, that we or our families rely on at some point in our lives is not as good as it can and should be. Each of you have your stories. Healthcare reform will not fix the problem.
It was my brother’s phone call and many subsequent episodes with other relatives that made me glad I became a doctor not because I could help them get better sooner, but help stop bad things from happening to them as a result of a less than perfect medical care.
Despite my knowledge, I wish I could say I stopped each and every bad outcome. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Every missed opportunity to intervene and make things better bothers me today. I am a better doctor today than I was a decade ago and will undoubtedly be a more skilled physician a decade from now.
As everyone this new year focuses on typical goals of becoming healthier by exercising, losing weight, and ridding themselves of vices like smoking and excessive drinking, I have a completely different lifelong mission: to educate individuals on how to get the best medical care by giving them insider tips only a doctor would know.
As a doctor I’ve taken a pledge to do no harm and help those who suffer. To do that I need to be a better writer.
*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*