A breakfast meeting with a new colleague


A respite that’s every so fleeting

From the diseases we find ourselves treating

I sat down to talk

With a colleague, a doc

An informal at-breakfast meeting

Synopsis: I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went for adventures working in out-of-the-way locations. After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took a part-time position with a Community Health Center, where I worked for 3 years.  I left last month because of a troubled relationship with the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.  Now I’m back from a road trip, working a bit with one of the rural docs, and getting ready for another job in Alaska.

During my time in Barrow, Alaska, the doctors met every morning from 8:00AM to 9:00AM.  We reviewed admissions, evacuations, problem patients, and interesting cases.  The agenda rotated around the table, everyone had a chance to talk and everyone had something to say.  Each time I left the table a better doctor than when I sat down.

When I returned home after my walkabout year, I fell in with a couple of colleagues who had also worked in Barrow.  We breakfasted together once or twice a month, and the informal meeting always made us better doctors.  Neither of those docs works in town now.

I breakfasted with a new colleague, Board certified in both Psychiatry and Family Practice.  I got to tell her about the Old Days, when med schools actively excluded women, doctors could hit patients but only when they deserved it, laparoscopic surgery existed exclusively as an idea in my head, and the diagnosing primary care doctor earned a lot of money as the surgical assistant.

I told her about the funeral I’d been to earlier in the week (see the previous post), and the amazing surgeon I’d had the privilege to know and work with.

Over semi-scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions, and smoked turkey, I laughed with her at her vivid description of her embattled clinical situation.  As with most who work in community health and/or with the mentally ill, she faces an impossible situation of inadequate resources and challenging patients.  She compared it to a battlefield front-line aid station equipped only with eye-patches.

We discussed obstetrics, how much we both enjoyed it and how much I enjoyed stopping.  We agreed that the feeling in the room immediately after a birth carries an evanescent sense of perfection not found elsewhere in this life.

I got to talk about how I learned how not to interrupt the flow of feminine energy in the process of a delivery.  I have found this concept nebulous and difficult to teach and embarrassing to talk about in the company of the coldly analytic.  Nonetheless when I figured it out the deliveries went better.

But I didn’t sugarcoat the problems that I had at my last delivery (see the post from April 2010, https://walkaboutdoc.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/my-cancer-removed-reflections-on-being-a-male-in-ob-a-frightening-delivery/.

We discussed beepers and the psychiatric community and why the dynamics roll the way they do.  And we talked about writing.

She might start blogging.

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