Saturday, June 30, 2012

Are Solo Docs Weird?

     This is like asking if the Bait-n-Tackle shop owner down the road is weird.  Or the couple who run the fish camp.  Or the homemade pasta people.  Or the shoe repair guy.  Or all the people who sell their own products at the farmers' market.  Or those people who run hole-in-the-wall restaurants with out-of-this-world food in big and small cities across the country, the ones we tell our friends about when we come home from vacation.
     Of course they're weird.
     That's why we like them.
     I went out with a couple of successful friends tonight.  They know exactly how to behave.  They say all the right things, and when we bumped into people they knew, those people said all the right things too.  I used to envy this skill:  knowing what to say and holding back when the wrong things are about to pop out.  I certainly don't have it.  Tonight I blurted out questions that rose to the surface of my mind like ping-pong balls released from the bottom of a pond.  People fumbled and twitched, and looked at me as though I had changed the dimensions of the universe in which we were operating.  I was grateful for my friends, who knew how to set the world right again with a few well-chosen remarks and some felicitous smiles.
     We need such people because they smooth out the ground we walk on, setting a standard against which all our deviations can be measured--there's no weirdness without a standard.  And there's a lot to be said for the advantages of living in a clan:  safety, moral support, affirmation, groupthink.
     But doctors who join big groups become homogenized and, to my mind, dull.  They're always passing one another in the halls, or sharing call, or meeting in those ways people in groups seem to need to meet, with chair-people and business reports.  They see one another so much they start looking alike, talking alike, liking the same things.  The inclination to imitate is irresistible, and now we know it's because our brains have lots of mirror neurons.  We're constantly reflecting the people we're around.
      I think big groups are okay;  I just don't want to be in one myself.  I've come to accept my quirkiness, and I've found uses for it.  For one thing, other quirky people gravitate to me.  For another, people who are in the midst of suffering are able to find "hooks" in my un-smooth personality.  It's easier to confide difficult or shameful things to a person who seems sort of marginal.
     Solo docs, working by themselves so much, develop strange characteristics, like a species that has evolved in isolation.  They have longer antennae, a funny walk, strange gesticulations, and an offbeat sense of humor.  I remember asking myself in medical school when I was doing rotations with oddball docs way out in the boonies:  "Do I want to be like that?"  The answer must have been yes, because now I am.
     Can't I just keep being a weird solo doctor?  Does the world of medicine have to change so much that solo doctoring is no longer an option?  Is there anything I can do about this?  
     No one reads blogs any more, I am told, so my little blog is like a teardrop in a rainstorm.  I'm writing for myself, an exercise in solipsism.  It's very sad.  If people like me can't be doctors any more, why don't we just turn the management of the medical profession over to Wal-Mart?  They're doing pretty well.  They've got a good business model, if that's what it's all about.
     Please, World, let there be a place for solo doctors like me.

1 comment:

  1. You are certainly not wierd. If you are, WE (YOU and I) would be a perfect match.
    and by the way "Wal-Mart Docs are every where, the big PROBLEM is they are all under the giant microscope of the FBI/IRS....