A Navy veteran of the tumultuous Vietnam and Nixon years, he served his country from inside that chaotic White House. I cannot sing his praises enough! As a writer and a brother, a mentor and a friend, this man has had a life-long effect on me and so many others. Enjoy the spell he weaves with his mastery of prose and attention to detail that only his style surpasses.
and trust are the bricks and mortar of all human relationships. It does not
matter if a relationship is established to meet a specific circumstance,
accomplish a common goal or purpose, or simply fill an emotional void. The
relationship cannot be successful, effective or last for very long unless there
is a constant unending supply of respect and trust from all parties.
say our family respected and trusted our family doctor is an understatement. My
mother absolutely adored the man. Any of his instructions or pronouncements
carried the full weight of Holy Writ in her eyes. My father had known Doc since
early adulthood. They used to hunt, fish and chase girls together. As for my
sister and me, we held him in the highest regard because our parents did. Doc
would also bribe us with hard candy he always kept in his little black bag.
knew Doc for what he was – a tool in the hand of God to ease pain and
suffering, to put the roses back in a child’s cheeks, to usher new life into
the world sharing in the joy and wonder, and finally to see the old and infirm
off to their reward in as much comfort and with as much dignity as possible.
Doc treated families not just their sick members. He always tried as best he
could to calm fears and lessen the anxiety or grief of all of the family
members, especially the children.
was a big man, over six feet and heavy set. His head seemed larger and out of
proportion with the rest of his body maybe because he was balding or because
his eyes were close set and framed with thick horn rimmed glasses. He smelled
of a combination of cigar smoke, rubbing alcohol, and bay rum.
was an imposing figure especially to children but his professional manner was
gentle and straightforward. He always told you exactly what he was going to do
when he examined or treated you and he always did what he said and nothing
more. When he had to give you a shot he would try not to let you see the
needle. After rubbing the spot with alcohol, he would pinch or softly slap the
flesh in the area so that you hardly felt the needle go in. He never dallied
about it either completing the whole process as quickly as possible. Besides
that piece of hard candy was always ready and waiting.
patients were both blacks and whites and if anybody didn’t like; it well there
were plenty of other doctors in our small Alabama town. He did have an office
downtown but he never refused to come to one of his regular patient’s home. He
would even see you in his home if you called him first. There was no pretense
about the man. He really served his patients and the schedule he kept day in
and day out would exhaust men half his age.
family was well off. He owned a farm and usually drove a new car every other
year. If his fee was a couple of paydays late he never sent a bill or refused
to come when called emergency or not. If he knew times were really hard, he
would waive any payment at all or accept fresh produce, prepared foods, or any
other useful item even labor helping out on his farm. Most of the time we
settled his bill on the spot, but more than once the last thing he said leaving
our house was “ Just pay me if and when you can.”
last time I remember seeing Doc was a few years after he retired. Our family
had stopped by his farm for a visit and to deliver one of my mother’s
blackberry cobblers that Doc was more than partial to. We were getting ready to
leave and he was dancing with his daughter to some new music called Rock and
Roll. That is my most lasting memory of him because it fit his personality to a
tee. Doc embraced new things and had almost no fear of change.
he retired in the early 60’s and passed away only a few years later, I wonder
what he would think of our health care system today. I am sure he would
enthusiastically applaud the technological advances such as medicines,
diagnostic tools, and the new treatments and techniques. Progress was important
to him where treating the sick or injured was concerned.
are a few things I am sure he would not like such as malpractice insurance,
assisted suicide, abortion, and the extensive involvement of “bean counters”
and lawyers in today’s so called health care delivery system. He would take a
dim view of anyone or anything that tried to dictate to him how to relate to or
treat one of his patients.
think he would also question the basic education of new doctors as well. I am
sure he would take issue for example with the notion of teaching them to
eliminate emotion from dealing with their patients. Respect and trust are
emotion based. If emotions are eliminated or inhibited the doctor/patient
relationship suffers and so does the chance for success of any treatment.
it “bedside manner”, “patient interface”, or anything else you like; it is
still just plain old people skills; nothing more, nothing less. Doc was a
master at it because he made himself aware of the patient’s emotions as well as
his own. He inherently knew that to get what he wanted – a patient’s respect
and trust – he had to give what he wanted without reservation. He had to calm
fear, uncertainty, and sometimes-silly superstitions. To complete the paradox
he had to not do anything that would induce or increase those emotions not only
in the patient but himself as well. It takes emotion to know how to deal with
one thing he would hate the most would be the fact that so few physicians make
house calls. The way Doc practiced medicine was more like a ministry. He
brought his skills where they were needed, when they were needed, and used them
the best he knew how on the front lines of life – in the family home.
course Doc had “privileges” at the local hospitals. He couldn’t fit x-ray
machines and operating rooms in his black bag and he could not supply the
patient with constant 24 hour a day care for long. If the circumstances called
for it Doc didn’t hesitate to use the resources of the hospital and he always
made himself available to ease any fear or anxiety of his patient or their
family. In more than one instance he paid a down and out patient’s hospital
bill. I can just imagine what sort of confrontation Doc would have with a present
day hospital administrator over admitting one of his poorer patients with no
insurance. There would have been more fireworks than the Fourth of July. Doc
was an impassioned man where his patients were concerned and known for his
we really made as much progress in health care as we thought? From a technical
standpoint, unquestionably; however in terms of real human-to-human
relationships the cost of that progress may have been the loss of innocence and
the ability to respect and trust one another.
today’s climate the doctor/patient relationship starts from almost an
adversarial beginning. We always hear the horror stories about how someone
experienced negative results from treatment for their health problem and never
get the positive ones; or for that matter the full story of why the negative
ones really happened. Our choice of a doctor is dictated if not by circumstance
by our insurance carrier or “health plan”.
if we do have what could be considered a family doctor, medicine has become so
complex and compartmentalized that no one man can competently “practice” it
all. So we get handed off to this or that specialist each time having to
establish a new relationship on which our health, well-being, and indeed life
might depend. That’s a lot of stress and a situation tailor made for
misunderstandings, conflict, and negative results.
think knowing Doc has actually given me a personal advantage in such
situations. All I do is remember Doc and transfer that respect and trust to the
doctor treating me. Sure I risk getting disappointed or betrayed; but I have
yet to have it happen. Most true health care professionals who have day-to-day
patient contact are genuinely caring people who got into medicine to help
others. I have found that they respond to respect and trust just like the rest
I saying that all doctors are to be respected or trusted? Absolutely not! There
are charlatans, fakers and just plain incompetents in any field of human
endeavor but they tend to quickly weed themselves out of the mainstream in
medicine. You can’t “fake it until you make it” in medicine. The stakes are
just too high.
brave new and evolving world of medicine has developed a lot of titles that are
supposed to define and clarify the roles of doctors for us poor uninitiated
patients. Such terms portray doctors as “healthcare professionals”, “care
givers”, “general practitioners “ and other specialty designations.
might have been fond of “professional care giver” but he always said, “ You can
call me anything you like as long as it not late to supper.” I think his
favorite title was the one he spent his life responding to – DOC.
Little Sisters – by Kenneth B. Kay – “I was her foil and scapegoat .