Doctor as Patient

Maria Yang, MD

November 11, 2012

It had been about two years since I last saw a primary care doctor. I was still living in New York City. My initial—and only—appointment with that physician lasted nearly an hour.

The front desk clerk had a round, pale face. Behind her was a textured wall over which ran a thin sheet of quiet water. Lush leaves spilled over the brim of the planter onto the marbled countertop.

“I’ll let the doctor know you’re here,” she nearly whispered.

He was a family practice physician. He was friendly. He smiled at me. He asked me if I lived in the city. When he learned that I worked as a psychiatrist, he commented, “Wow. That’s hard work, Dr. Yang.”

It was professional courtesy to address me by that title, though it didn’t feel right to me. I looked down to mask my discomfort. My feet dangled off of the examination table.

“Do you have a private practice?”

No, I said. I worked primarily with people who were homeless.

“Oh,” he said. “That’s even harder work.”

He asked me about my medical history, then my family history. He went through the major components of a physical exam.

He told me about his work as a primary care [...] continue the story