Have you ever gone to an appointment at a physician’s office affiliated with a teaching hospital, such as Loyola or Northwestern, and talked to another doctor first, before your regular physician entered the room?
The book I am now finishing, The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year by Dr. Matt McCarthy, reminds me of a Loyola visit where a resident met with me first and asked specific questions – specifically “why are you here today?” or “how is it going for you since you were here last?” That individual is tasked with remembering a patient history, and starting out as a doctor, he/she will need to determine the next steps for you.
Have you ever wondered what it is like for the new doctors in their white coats, armed with all this knowledge out of medical school and active internships? In his new book, Dr. McCarthy uses an introspective, narrative style to depict some of the process involved in patient examinations, taking and evaluating medical history and later on making a diagnosis – all the while keeping up with all the note taking, specific follow-up, and consulting with the attending physician.
This is a personal account of the author’s own interactions with patients as a newly minted doctor while trying to emulate the steadiness of the older physicians, drawing from their experience and wisdom as he encounters challenging situations with each different specialty rotation. Dr. McCarthy was sometimes second guessing his decisions, worrying if he was keeping in step with the frantic pacing at the hospital.
In moments when he was still and had time for his mind to refocus on the larger picture, he would review the attitudes and outlook of the seasoned doctors in his circle. Recalling one of those conversations, he reviews how a particular doctor’s philosophy influenced him:
“From Jim [another doctor] I learned that through medicine it is possible to reach the unreachable-even the ones who most of us forget about or actively try to ignore. This is the power and beauty of our profession. He spent his evenings with Boston’s homeless so they would trust him, so they would come to his clinic when illness struck.” [p.109]
Dr. McCarthy continues to grow as a professional in all his hospital and clinic interactions and decisions during this very important first year. His humanity and regard for his patients will take you on a remarkable, intensely personal journey. He is currently an assistant professor of medicine at Cornell, and a staff physician at Weil Cornell Medical Center. His earlier works include a New York Times bestseller, Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, and numerous contributions to Sports Illustrated, The New England Journal of Medicine, and others.