Where is the “care” in Healthcare?

by Mia Aretha Ben, M.D., All Kids Pediatrics of Opelousas

When my friend, Debbie, asked me to do a few blog posts, I was honored. After all, to me Debbie is a wonderful writer, very creative. So how can I write for her page? Then she tells me I can write on ANYTHING! Girl that is dangerous! I don’t look like Whoopi Goldberg for nothing.

Well here it goes.

When I graduated from high school, I really didn’t know what I was going to do besides go to college. Both my parents were the first in their families to go, there was no way their first child was not going to college. Oh, and I had no choice. I knew I would be going right up the road to Southern University. The hard part was what was I now going to become. Well most folks thought I would be a teacher like my folks.  Truth be told, I was just ready to make a dollar at that point. It was 1986, Rap was king,  bling bling was fashion before folks even knew the term. I wanted out. Not to use my God given gifts of creativity. That was until I met Stephanie.  Stephanie was my suite mate in college. She told me she was majoring in pre med. I thought she was crazy.

Then comes the moment that made me what I am today. I truly love my Alma Mater; and I proudly stand and sing “Oh, Southern, Dear Southern” at every Bayou Classic Football Game like proud alum. However Southern is known for many clerical errors. Gladly this one led me on the right path, as I was introduced to Dr. Alice Ward, the pre-med advisor after my Freshman Biology class was improperly keyed on my schedule. Dr. Ward saw in me the potential for greatness. After 2 hours of conversation., I was placed in the Honors Biology section and my major was now Zoology-Pre-Med! Now upon returning to my room and informing Stephanie of this, I now found out that she thought I was crazy!

So goes the journey of 2 crazy young people. Many nights of dissecting cats, setting fires to Bunsen burners, spilling acid, shelling soybeans, and performing pap smears on rats (another story) produced 2 graduates with degrees, on their way to becoming physicians.

We both were accepted to medical schools; Stephanie to Tulane and I to LSU.

What comes to mind as I fondly remember those nights of hard work, were the times when we said, “Will this be worth it”. We shared stories of people we knew that died because of lack of health care. I recalled many family members who had health problems and lack of knowledge of how to seek adequate care.

Here we were going to be the soldiers that save the world with our medical knowledge. No longer would folks suffer, because we would be there to cure all ills and ease all pain.

Well, here we are 2012. We now have what the world likes to call Obamacare, which has to some folks become as derogatory as the “F” word. We have people who would rather go sit in a crowded emergency room than wait in their doctor’s office.  We have people that are privileged to have Medicaid for their children’s care that think that the physicians owe them their rights to privacy. We have parents that feel they can criticize and insult their physician in any way they choose. We have still have physicians that are so burned out, that they have become apathetic. The word is getting out to the best and brightest students because many of them are not becoming physicians. They are opting to becoming nurse practitioners or physician assistants who in some markets are paid the same as M. D.’s The best and the brightest are also opting to avoid healthcare as a choice of career making it easier for the “slackers” to become physicians.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into medicine for the money, but I didn’t take a vow of poverty. I do hate it when folks think physicians are rolling in dough and live the high life. I am driving a 2002 Toyota Camry and a 1998 Ford Expedition. I owe student loans and taxes and I have to pay for all 3 of my children to attend school, from college to elementary school (that’s another blog).

Can I fix it by myself? If I believed that, I wouldn’t be writing this. One of the problems with healthcare is everyone wants it and no one wants to pay for it.  This is a case where the best things in life are not free.

I have heard horror stories about socialized medicine, where if you are 65 and need dialysis you basically need to go home an pick out a funeral home, or the 50 year old lady that had to wait 6 months to get a cat scan to evaluate her ovarian mass which turned out to be cancer and another 6 months to have a surgeon remove the tumor to start chemotherapy because the studies say ovarian cancer has a 50 survival rate so lets see if she lives long enough to start treatment.

There has to be a way to get quality healthcare (with emphasis on quality) without breaking the bank and without the horror stories I have presented. Does anyone really and truly want to give it a go?

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One response

  1. There’s got to be a middle ground between hardcore socialized medicine of the dystopian scifi variety (gruesome waiting rooms, patients dying in the hallways, forgotten in elevators) and a system where only the very rich can afford even basic health care. I am very fortunate to have health care insurance through my work, but I’ve seen what happens to those with little or no health care options. I’ve sat in the free clinic for hours with my mother in law (who is very sick) only to have her sent home without seeing a physician. I’ve sat there and fumed while the overbooked MD completely missed my wife’s diabetes. I snuck the chart while we waited almost an hour in the exam room; I saw the elevated sugar levels and made the connection between those and her family history. Because she was a Medicaid patient, she was at the bottom of the list. I cared more about her health than her doctor, and I have an English degree!

    Doctors are overworked, overburdened, overlitigated, and undervalued. Our system of medicine is seriously broken, and you’re right–the best and the brightest are being frightened away from medicine as a career. I don’t know what it’s going to take, but something must be done.

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