The Challenge of Finding a Good Doctor Part 2 | MS Blog

I am super excited to write this blog! Good Doctor


Because it was inspired by someone who is the PERFECT EXAMPLE of a GOOD DOCTOR, and I don’t have to tell you how hard that is to find!

As you know from last week’s blog, I was fighting a bad cold.  I finally went to Urgent Care because my own Primary Care Physician (PCP) had to cancel the appointments I made, due to sickness himself.  My concerns about Urgent Care or anyone who isn’t my  own physician are the following:  I will have to share my medical history again, at least to some extent; it’s a crapshoot if the physician will know much about MS; even if he/she knows about MS, they most likely won’t know much about the treatment, especially in my case since Tysabri is fairly new and can impact the immune system; this person can’t put me into a larger context in order to know things like when I say I’m in pain, it means I’m at a pain level 20 on a 1 to 10 scale and that I’m not the type of patient who will abuse medication.  These are all valid concerns because I have had plenty of experiences where a new doctor dismisses a complaint because they think I’m exaggerating. I hear about negative experiences like this from several of my fellow patients.  Keep these concerns in mind as you keep reading.

Dorrie Chang

In order to share the characteristics of a good PCP, I want to tell you about Dorrie Chang, MD at Cedars Sinai who was my Urgent Care physician last week.  I am sad to report that she is a diamond in the rough.  I’m sad because it shouldn’t be so hard to find such a great physician, let alone stumble upon one like I did with Dorrie.

                        Here’s what happened:

  1. Building Rapport

Dorrie walked into my room with vibrant energy and made a joke about being the fish Dorrie from the movie Finding Nemo.  Introducing herself by first name was enough of a huge step in building rapport with me as a patient, but the use of humor also went a long way (especially if you consider how cranky I was during those three weeks).

   2. Reading Medical Records BEFORE Your Appointment

Dorrie actually read parts of my medical record before walking into the room.  This is important for any patient, but especially for someone with a chronic illness.  To walk in “blind” and just ask what brought a patient in that day can cause a great deal of anxiety for a patient who feels that other factors of their health need to be considered.

This was an incredibly special moment in our appointment though because by reading parts of my record, she was already able to put together most of the “Kaley puzzle.”  She immediately started rattling off names of, what I like to call, “MS goddesses” (world renowned MS Specialists) from both UCLA and Cedars Sinai, and of course she even mentioned Dr. Leslie Weiner at USC.  To my surprise, and good fortune, Dorrie went to medical school at USC and did her residency at UCLA under the direction of these “MS goddesses.”  Since I was diagnosed at UCLA, and have known these wonderful neurologists through the MS community since I was a little girl, I was immediately at ease!  She knew about MS! 

This was just the luck of the draw.  When it comes to your own PCP, you should expect that physician to do their research and get extremely acquainted with MS.  Since Dorrie knew so much about MS and its treatments, we were able to jump right in to the special risks we needed to consider given the interaction of Tysabri with my immune system and the nature of my current symptoms.

  3. Mutual Learning

Dorrie was not at all shy about saying that she did not know much about Tysabri and asked me several questions about it.  In doing so, she showed me that she trusted my knowledge as a patient.  She also gained my trust by doing this because I knew she was confident enough in herself to admit her own lack of knowledge in certain areas.  This significantly increased my confidence in her.

neurologist resized 600

But wait – there’s more!  When she saw the puzzled look on my face when she asked about sinus infection symptoms she ‘googled’ a diagram of the sinuses on her computer and angled the screen for both of us to see.  She taught me all about the sinuses by using medical terms in conjunction with everyday ‘human’ language so that I could understand. Taking the time to educate and inform a patient about what is happening in their body is so empowering!  This is a very unique behavior, but I wish it happened all the time!  You want to try and find a PCP who will do this which is hard because most doctors aren’t always in a position to give you that kind of individual attention.  Even a doctor who will point you in the right direction by providing you with a website or pamphlet, or the terms you should look up, is a good PCP.

   4. Patient Involvement in the Treatment Plan

When Dorrie came up with her best strategy to treat my symptoms, she started by asking me questions like “I’m considering a steroid in the form of a nasal spray; how do you feel about steroids?”  She made me a participant in the process and as a result I was more invested in following the treatment plan we agreed upon.  By the way, she didn’t just ask, she also listened to my responses.  When I asked about any other viruses that might cause similar symptoms, she agreed to run some blood tests to be on the safe side.  She again showed faith in me and allayed any anxiety.  My guess is that reading my health history made it a little easier to do this but either way, kudos to this wonderful woman!

    5. Managing Your Specialists

Lastly, as a patient with a chronic illness, it is crucial to have a PCP who is willing to actively interact with your other physicians.  This doesn’t apply to Dorrie because she isn’t my ongoing physician, but I still need to mention it since it’s so important.  With a chronic illness you might have several specialists.  For example, I have a neurologist,  urologist, & opthalmologist, just to name a few.  Managing this ‘team’ can be challenging and special circumstances come up when it’s difficult to know which physician to go to regarding a particular symptom or which medication supersedes another.  Your PCP can play an integral role in navigating certain situations.  You want to make sure that your PCP is willing to communicate with your specialists when necessary and is keeping up to date on your progress with each of them.

    6. Your PCP is Only as Good as the YOUmany doctors resized 600

As the patient, you are an essential part of this team.  There are steps you can take as a patient in order best manage this team, and your PCP can do his job as team captain much better when he or she has a good ‘manager.’  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog with some tips on making the most of your doctors and being a “Good Patient” in order to  make the most of your PCP.

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