I’m in a funk. I admit it. Our family physician is moving away.
It took me a long time to find just the right doctor – young enough to perhaps outlive me, with the right skillset to deal with a crusty old fossil, someone who actually might invest the time to get to know me, and someone who I could actually count on to be a straight shooter.
Now, I’m faced with finding someone new in a world of corporate medicine where patients are moved through the system like cattle awaiting vaccinations.
For advice, of course, I have turned to the experts – experts like Erma Bombeck who cautioned to “never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”
Then, there was Henny Youngman who obviously found a very cost-conscious physician: “I told my doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.”
Very practical advice.
Joey Bishop apparently was a patient of that same doc, and had nothing but praise for the physician’s care and understanding. “Once, when I couldn’t afford an operation, he touched up the X-rays.”
So, I’m looking for someone with a great skillset, whose office plants haven’t died and understands I’m not heir to a fortune.
But the available doctor pool isn’t what it used to be.
There was a time when it seemed there were more doctors than patients – a buyer’s market, as it were.
Back in 1884, according to an article from the New York Medical Record, published in the Billings Herald newspaper, one doctor complained there were so many graduates from medical schools that:
“In the case of four physicians dying, each in a country village, during the last year, I am credibly informed that in one instance two, in another three, in the third five and in the fourth seven new men came to look the field over within ten days after the doctor’s death.”
“Sometimes,” he said, the graduates would show up before the burial. “In one case, ten attended the funeral, and in another the widow had three letters from aspirants for the vacant place while the dead body of her husband still lay in the house!”
Back then, there were few female physicians, and the few colleges turning out women doctors were often the subject of criticism.
Sometimes, the criticism came in the form of humor, from the likes of George Peck (described as an author, politician and statesman) who wrote a widely circulated column appearing in papers like Montana’s Ft. Benton River Press.
“A man, if there was nothing the matter with him, might call in a female doctor, but if he was sick as a horse (if a man is sick, he is as sick as a horse) the last thing he would have around would be a female doctor.
“And why? Because, when a man has a female fumbling around him he wants to feel well. He don’t want to be bilious or feverish, with his mouth tasting like cheese and his eyes bloodshot, when the female is looking over him aid taking account of stock.
“Of course, these female doctors are all young and good looking, and if one of them came into a sick room where a man was in bed and he had chills, and was as cold as a wedge, and she should sit up close to the side of the bed and take hold of his hand, his pulse would run up to 150, and she would prescribe for a fever when he had chilblains.
“Suppose he knew his tongue was coated so it looked like a yellow Turkish towel, do you suppose he would want to run out five or six inches of the lower part of it and let that female doctor put her finger on it to see how furry it was. He would put that tongue up into his cheek and wouldn’t let her see it for 25 cents admission.
“No, all of a man’s symptoms change when a female doctor is practicing on him, and she would kill him dead!”
Humorous, at the time, yes. But times have changed – thankfully.
There are plenty of female docs available today to replace my (to date) absolutely favorite doc ever – who just happened to be female.
That’s right. I’m looking for a great doctor, and I prefer her to be … well, a “her.”
I’ve come to the belief that (with definite exceptions) women are both smarter and more insightful than men.
I need someone who, while sympathetic to my whining about simple aches and pains, will remind me, “You want pain? Try having a baby!”
That sort of doc – that’s what I need.
Hopefully I’ll find her.
Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.