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What do you consider to be the most important qualities when you are looking for a doctor?

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What do you consider to be the most important qualities when you are looking for a doctor?

I attended a myeloma informational seminar last week at Moffitt Cancer Center here is Florida and wrote about what I saw:

News and views from “New Treatment Options” seminar last night at Moffitt

At the end of my post, I wrote this:

“I did overhear several comments made by attending patients and caregivers last night that really got my journalistic wheels turning.  I spent much of my time observing those who eagerly attended the program.  In many cases, you could instantly pick the newly diagnosed patients and caregivers out of the crowd just by watching their facial expressions, and focusing on the “deer in the headlights” look I remember so well.

I spoke with and interviewed several patients and caregivers before, during and after the presentation.  I’m going to share some of my thoughts and observations about who attended–and why–later this week…”

I’m getting to this late, but I did want to touch-on something I found to be fascinating before, during and after the event.

The majority of patients and caregivers who attended were already Moffitt patients–and most really like and support their doctors.

I focused on the break-out sessions and meal time at the end of the program.

I chose to attend Dr. Rachid Baz’s group, because I had worked-with the other two doctors which were available to us, Dr. Melissa Alsina (my myeloma specialist) and Dr. Ken Shain, who had just completed conducting an overview of new myeloma treatment options just moments before.

I was surprised to learn how many attendees chose to hear their doctor speak.  Like me, I would have guessed most would have been interested to hear one of the other doctors to get a bit different slant on things.

But while waiting for the complimentary, catered post-presentation meal, I had a chance to question a number of patients and caregivers that stayed for dinner.

To a person, all “liked,” loved” or were “pleased” with their myeloma specialist at Moffitt.

I guess that makes sense.  Those who were not pleased with their docs or care would be less likely to attend.

But I was struck by how many openly and enthusiastically defended their doctors.  Let me explain.

I had heard a number of “not so kind” reviews of both Dr. Alsina and Dr. Baz over the past few years from support group members and people sitting in waiting rooms.  Criticisms focused on how both seemed to be “detached” or that they “didn’t care about me.”  I was curious about why this might be the case.

Yet best I can tell, both are well trained, caring physicians.  So how and why could this be–and why hadn’t I ever heard anything bad about Dr. Shain?

While this is far, far from a comprehensive or scientific survey, my anecdotal look at this issue led me to one obvious conclusion:

Dr. Shain seems to be of European decent.  He has no accent and is easy to understand.  And to be fair, he doesn’t see as many patients as Dr. Baz or Alzina, because he spends much of his time conducting anti-myeloma research.

But both Dr. Baz and Dr. Alsina have distinct accents which can make them a bit difficult to understand at times.   I could also see how someone might think they weren’t caring or engaging enough.  Both are quiet and doctors of few words.

Point of fact, I have found staff at Moffitt to be a bit distracted and unorganized at times.  I don’t mind, because I am an experienced patient.  So I’m not sure that it is all about the “accents” of these two docs.  Maybe they don’t come across as “warm and fuzzy enough.”

With that in mind, I guess I wouldn’t necessarily recommend either of them to a newly diagnosed, older patient–although I’m sure a Latin born person might appreciate Dr. Alsina’s ability to speak fluent Spanish.

I have found that Moffitt physicians in general aren’t the best at following-up and laying out a thoughtful, long term treatment path.

That said, I like–and would feel comfortable–working with any of these three specialists.

But after hearing as many as a dozen people criticize one or both Dr. Baz and Alsina over the past two or three years, I was pleasantly surprised to not find a single person who I spoke with at this event who didn’t have great things to say about either doctor.

Which brings me to a few question for my readers:

What do you consider to be the most important qualities when you are looking for a doctor–specifically a myeloma specialist.

Maybe you don’t feel that you even have a choice.  At Moffitt, patients are encouraged to move freely among specialists.  I believe that Mayo Clinic works that way too.  But I’m guessing few actually do.

Have you switched doctors–or tried to do that at your cancer clinic?  Or do you sit and “take it” if you aren’t pleased with the connection and/or advice your are currently receiving from you myeloma doc?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.  We don’t often admit it, but sometimes poor communication between patient and doctor can be the patient’s fault.

Ask yourself if you have reasonable expectations going into an appointment.  Are you organized, with a written list of questions to cover so that you aren’t wasting the doctor’s time?  Are you able to be patient when your doctor recommends “watchful waiting” or tells you that “This may take some time?”

On the other hand, do you find yourself being intimidated and unable to ask important questions?

Do you feel your doctor is willing to spend enough time with you, or is he/she rushed or easily distracted?

All reasons why working with and getting to know more than one doctor is almost always a great idea!  Even if you are satisfied with your current specialist and/or medical oncologist, who is to say you might not “click” better with someone new?  Almost sounds like we are talking about a dating service, doesn’t it?

Which is fine–because in a sense we are.  A personal connection between you and your doctors can be a key to communicating how you feel to them–and then how well you hear and understand their response.

I think that it would be helpful if some of my readers could jump-in here and share your thoughts and advice.

Thanks in advance for participating!  Hope that we can all learn something…

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat