Whenever I meet someone new and the conversation naturally turns to what I do for a living, I cringe. I hesitate. I even consider for a split second about telling a lie. It’s not that I am not proud of what I do. I know that once I tell someone that I’m a doctor, nothing will ever be the same between us.
People respond in one of three ways:
- Nothing. They don’t really care. It doesn’t bother them, impress them, or make any difference at all to them. I like those people.
- They look a little shocked, like they didn’t hear me correctly. You’re a what? Then they smile a lot and look self-conscious. They pretty much want to get away. The only thing we’ll ever have in common henceforth is their medical issues or those of their families.
- These people are in the medical field or have a family member that’s a doctor. What KIND of doctor are you? Oh, you’re JUST a family doctor? They are not impressed. And that’s OK with me. I don’t hold beating hearts in my hands or perform brain surgery. I know who I am.
This actually happened recently. My insurance guy was asking me questions because I was buying long term disability insurance.
- Him: What kind of doctor are you?
- Me: I’m a family doctor.
- Him: Oh, you’re JUST a family doctor.
- Me: (a little smile on my face) Yes, I am. I’m just a family doctor.
I’m just a family doctor to the 6 year old that I met a year ago. He was so scared of doctors that he sat trembling in his mother’s lap. A year later, he sat alone and courageous on the bed and announced, “Dr. Vass, you’re my most favorite doctor ever!”
I’m just a family doctor to the man that I held while he sobbed over his dying wife.
I’m just a family doctor to the couple that I brought into the office to inform them that the tests revealed the abdominal pain she was feeling wasn’t reflux, but something more sinister.
I’m just a family doctor to the woman who finally got that routine mammogram I have been hounding her about that revealed an early treatable tumor.
I’m just a family doctor to my husband who knows that when I toss and turn at night, I’ve got a patient on my mind and I’m worried.
I’m just a family doctor to my kids who know that when mommy’s on the phone and she gives you that look, she’s probably talking to a patient, the hospital, a pharmacist, or another doctor and you better be extra special quiet.
I know that to the people that entrust their care to me, the ones whose children, grandchildren, spouses, and friends rely on my abilities, and to my own family who allow me to do my job -I know that to them maybe I’m not JUST a family doctor. Maybe to them, I might be something JUST a little bit more.
Photo credit: Emily Fletcher