I read with interest Dr G. Henderson’s comments [in BCMJ 2002;44(3):116] regarding my President’s message in the January edition of the BC College of Family Physicians’ newsletter. I am sorry he does not share my views. I am convinced that much of the increasing dissatisfaction being experienced these days by our profession is due to at least a partial loss of that altruistic tendency that has accompanied the practice of medicine in years past.
Don’t get me wrong. Most physicians work hard, take responsibility for a high level of care, and deserve appropriate financial reward. The real pity is that we are not paid for doing what we do best—caring for the chronically ill, counseling those who are troubled, delivering babies, sorting out complicated problems—rather than the short, self-limiting illnesses we churn through so we can pay our overhead!
My point is that our reward is not only financial. I also am a so-called full-service family physician. I also work in an after-hours clinic, our local answer to after-hours care, run by local full-service family physicians. Although the financial rewards surpass my office practice, I far prefer to work out of my office. Why? Because I know my patients. We have developed a relationship over many years of visits. Some of the relationships are not my first choice for friendship, but I have come to know their quirks and foibles and can better interpret their complaints in that context. In the context of that relationship, I have an impact on their lives. And that is rewarding. Without this “altruistic” component, this becomes just another job that I, for one, would not enjoy. And we all know how people fare in life when their job is a burden!
—Susan Knoll, MD
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