Passages – Medical Edition

Egad! They are all younger than me! How did this happen?

My last contemporary doctor — Yesterday I had an appointment with my cancer surgeon. I have an annual check-up with him and have been his patient for 10 years. He is the only doctor who is my contemporary.

When we first met, we were both in our mid-50s. Yesterday I asked if him if he was thinking about retirement. His response was “in a few years.” I will miss him. There is something soothing about him. We relate in some way that works.

Another one bit the dirt — My dentist retired about two years ago and my new dentist is almost young enough to be my grandson. He’s a great dentist but is at a very different life stage.

I knew my old dentist well from being a longtime patient. He would talk about his family while he had his hands in my mouth. (Why do they do that? Sometimes they even ask questions while their hands are in your mouth!) He had funny stories about his grandkids. Sometimes there were photos to share.

My new dentist doesn’t take the time for that kind of connection and quite honestly his practice is too busy. He probably connects with patients his age who have similar interests.

The older ones — I remember when I was a little girl. I went to a doctor who was a kindly old grandfather type. He handed out awful candy. (Hadn’t he heard about the merits of chocolate?)

I would always pray that I didn’t need a shot. That was the worst (or so I thought) outcome of a doctor visit. “Please God, let him give me pills instead of a shot,” I would pray in the car on the way.

They got younger — In high school, our family doctor was closer to my parents’ age. I didn’t mind getting a shot but still preferred pills as the resolution to my ills. He was very different from my older doctor.

You would never call him nice or kindly. He was all business. He would yell at you (yes, yell — he was the original House) if you didn’t follow instructions precisely. He didn’t do house calls and he was a lot more likely to send you to the hospital for blood tests or x-rays if he didn’t know what was going on. I credit him with resolving a long-term problem I had that turned out to be chronic appendicitis. My symptoms had baffled several doctors.

Then they are my age — Somewhere in my late 30s and early 40s I realized that my doctors were my age. My gynecologist was the kid in 5th grade who was fascinated with lady parts. We thought he was a pervert and here he is, brilliant in his field. It was still a little creepy.

Now they are younger than me — I saw another transition a few years ago. My current family doctor is much younger than me but not quite as young as my dentist. He is “nice” and competent and connected to a network of similarly aged doctors. I envision them discussing challenging cases but in reality, they probably play golf and quaff a few brews.

My gynecologist is in her 40s. We connect really well. Perhaps I remind her of her mother or maybe she is that kind of doctor.

You show me yours and I’ll show you mine — There is something weird about showing your body parts to kids so much younger. I had a complete cardiac workup about two years ago. I swear the specialist just started shaving. How could he possibly be a cardiac specialist? It didn’t help that he was drop-dead gorgeous either. There I was, sweaty on the treadmill. It didn’t really matter though. I was definitely an old lady to him.

Medicine is such an evolving field that “young” isn’t bad. It takes the combination of experience from the older doctors and the new ideas and methods from those fresh out of school to make change.

If you can stand body fluids (which I can’t), it’s an exciting field to be in.

26 thoughts on “Passages – Medical Edition

  1. What a terrific post! I can relate!

    I have to admit, I was grinning throughout – especially the part about the kid who once took an interest in ladies’ body parts. Oh nooo! Nice to know he was able to make a career out of that in a respectable profession. 😀 😀

    You have a great blog.

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  2. This is a great post and I can totally relate to it! And I am sure I am older that you. My old doctors keep retiring! Thanks for sharing. As Dor said…everyone seems to be younger these days. Thanks for the recent visit to my blog.

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  3. It is kind of hard for me to accept how young my doctors are, too. It isn’t because I feel their skills can’t be as good as someone older. In fact, it’s nice they know the latest methods. Maybe I don’t relate to them and I know they don’t relate to me. My parents’ primary physician is still practicing in his early 80s! He is their contemporary and he is still a wonderful doctor! Isn’t that a hoot?

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    • Yes it is. My childhood doctor who made home visits practiced a long time. I was a child so he was always ancient to me. Eventually he didn’t want to go out at night on a house calls and we moved on to a younger doctor. That one was affiliated with the nearby hospital and very convenient although by that point no one was making house calls. Can you imagine the time they wasted driving from house to house?

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  4. This whole transition from older to younger doctors is unsettling … until it isn’t. You start out with the doctor who seems so old and wise. He must know everything. Year later, you have a very young doctor, and it’s a shock. You wonder if you can trust him. Isn’t he too young to know what he’s doing? I guess at this point, I like a doctor of any age who is competent and pleasant.

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  5. Ha, I had never really thought about it but your time line seems dead on! One thing I have noticed from work and as a patient is that more docs seem to be really into fitness. Hiking, surfing, marathons, triathlons….not as many smoking, donut docs around. 8)

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    • So true! The doctor in my high school years was overweight and he smoked. Every time he gave up smoking he gained more weight. When he gave up smoking or went on a diet he got very cranky. I don’t have an overweight doctor now.

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  6. I know how you feel, Kate. At the hospital, they all seem very young. Our family doctor is younger than me, but I appreciate the time he takes to really talk with me to learn what needs fixin’. He also is very current on treatment and research.

    My doctor, when I was pregnant, wouldn’t yell if I didn’t follow thru. But he would make odd comments to prod me: “When was the last time you went bowling?” (I didn’t bowl. So he’d follow with “When was the last time you had your hair done?” I got the message. If I had money for that, I had money for a regular check up.) I appreciated his humor. He retired shortly after I had my 2nd daughter.

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    • I do like that the younger docs are current. My eye doc is in her 40s and one thing she says is that the locals ophthalmologists don’t keep up. Based on some of my brother’s experiences, I would agree with that.

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  7. All my doctors are young and look like they’re about to go sailing in a Tommy Hilfiger ad. I did lose my gynecologist of 10 years who I loved because now she’s only practicing obstetrics. If I could only have a baby she’d still be my doctor.

    I like your line about shaving 🙂

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    • I only have 2 doctors that I consider very Madison Avenue-y. One moved away so now there is one. He is a very good dresser. For office visits he either has a suit that looks a lot like Brooks Brothers or black scrubs which he pulls off perfectly.

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  8. Kate…love this post…and it hits home. My husband has Amyloidosis…a rare, incurable condition; not cancer but we are monitored at a cancer center nearby. One of his specialist is younger than our sons…the other is our contemporary (he’s happy and never mentions retirement). My oral dentist is Taiwanese and the most wonderful young man; last week he pulled out his phone to show pictures of his newborn son and three year old daughter…and of course, his wife. We are fortunate to have doctors with a wide age span…from your words I believe you are the same! That genius, Erma Bombeck said, “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” Whew…none of my doctor’s have dead plants! Such a relief.

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    • Only my dermatologist has office plants and they are healthy! A long time ago I had to go to a proctologist (super yuk) and he had a huge fish tank in his office. I could watch those fish for hours which is good because there always was a long waiting time. Never saw a dead fish.

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  9. Hahahaha! LOL! Great post, especially for those of us who can relate! You will really begin to feel the generation gap when EVERYBODY looks and acts too young to be doing their jobs – like police officers and judges, I knew I was over the hill when I was given medication to slow my heart rate. I asked my young dr. how long he thought it would take the pill to work and he answered, “I don’t know. Let me go and look that up!”

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  10. All my doctors are still practicing and are about my age. When I ask them if they’re thinking of retiring, they insist not yet. One of mine published a murder mystery recently and was I ever surprised to run into another teaching at my college! When I left my copies in the workroom he showed up at my classroom with papers in hand…treating my “ole timers”, I guess.

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    • That is pretty cool! My dentist retired by weaning his hours down. It was horrible to get an appointment and he did lose some customers. I stayed with him to the end. We connected on a level. My front teeth slightly overlapped. No one ever thought it was worth braces but the first time I saw him, he looked at it and said, “I can fix that for you.” It didn’t cost me a fortune and it didn’t take braces. He was my hero from then on. My cancer surgeon teaches at a med school. Despite being in his 60s, he is very current on treatment and research. I don’t think I have any who write books but how would I know?

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