At the House of Delegates' meeting, I took off my suit jacket and put on my lab coat. I hung a stethoscope around my neck and introduced myself as Dr. Gottlieb. I encouraged all of you to do the same when meeting your patients. I suggested that while a friendly relationship with your patient is important prior to surgery, a much more important one is of doctor-patient. Surveys have shown that many patients are not aware that anesthesiologists are physicians. Before your patient asks you if his/her doctor is going to stop by, make the importance of your responsibility clear.
But does it really matter if your patient realizes you graduated from medical school? Is it recognition we seek? Aren't we more behind-the-scenes?
It is important, and not for recognition. While we are more behind-the-scenes, I bet all of you understand the critical nature of the role you play. Medical school matters. If patients understand the extent of your responsibilities, they're more likely to share information with you, follow your instructions, and trust you. With each patient we care for, there is an opportunity to educate and inform.
So, the patient now knows I'm a doctor. Still, why is medical school important?
The focus in medical school is to be a detective. Our jobs, as physicians, is to take in evidence, process it, incorporate our experiences/education, and derive differential diagnoses. We act on the differentials and monitor to see if things improve. If they do not, we reassess, search for more evidence and derive new lists. We solve mysteries. We make diagnoses. We fight our biases and constantly reassess. This is why medical school matters. It's not anatomy class or a white coat or a diploma. Our degrees mean that we have learned how to solve the mysteries with which our patients present. Medical school is detective school. It's the place in which we learned to think critically, scientifically, and respectfully.
I have tremendous respect for every role involved in the care of our patients. While everyone contributes to the care of the patient, having a detective on the team is critical to solving problems, often when seconds matter. Take pride in being detectives! Take pride in being physicians! It's an honor and a privilege.
Beyond modifying your introductions and informing patients, what can you do?
Within your daily practice, pursue an administrative role in your hospital, call your patients the night before, the day after, an own the peri-operative workflow. Engage with surgical, procedural, nursing leadership, and demonstrate your value. Beyond your hospital, get to know your state legislators, visit Springfield with the ISA on Lobby Day, donate to the ISA PAC, become a Delegate to the House of Delegates, and get connect.
Like patients, lawmakers often are unaware and do not appreciate the route you've taken to be an anesthesiologist. If you believe, as I do, that medical school matters, educate them. Make her aware that the team model works. Invite him to see your practice. Impress upon her that your detective skills are important. Convince him that he's right to think that if he was the patient, he would want a doctor involved, too.
Thank you for all of your training, your education, your efforts, and your commitment. You do make a difference. As detectives. As PHYSICIANS.