I am excited about launching a new website that our
organization has been dreaming of for years now. In the process of developing
the materials, I did a video blog on a topic that seems to get people
passionate about their stance. The topic
is age-old but I am bringing it into the medical milieu today.
Let’s set the stage.
Bring yourself back to the moment you learned of Bill Clinton’s ‘extra-curricular
activities’ during his presidential career.
Were you of the camp that said, “It’s his personal life and it has
nothing to do with his professional abilities and integrity”? Or were you like those who were concerned
that these behaviors signal some ethical deviation that likely pervades his
character and raises concerns about his overall decision making compass?
Now, let’s get health care about this! Should doctors be held to a higher standard
of healthy living as they are mentors, advisors and leaders to their patients
on these matters of disease prevention and management? If you saw your oncologist smoking a
cigarette out back or your cardiologist chugging down a sugary soda with his greasy
burger, would your confidence and respect waiver? Obviously, doctors have the right to do
whatever they want legally; however, many patients articulate that it is
professionally irresponsible to advise and, at times, preach one thing and then
proceed to behave totally different in one’s own life. Interestingly, the Latin origins of the word
‘doctor’ translate to something many of us might not have guessed… ‘to teach.’
In both historical and modern times, effective teaching has always
incorporated leading by example.
Integrity is the bottom line here. When I tell a patient that coming off of gluten
is necessary to help their asthma or thyroid condition, I can honestly say that
I have walked the walk while I am talking the talk. That’s what patients are inspired to
follow. I am a real person with my own
genetics, symptoms and lifestyle issues but I hold myself accountable to what I
must do to get the vibrant, healthy, med-free, disease-free life that I, too,
crave. In my office, I am an open book. My labs are laminated and available for
patients to view my stats when I put myself through the similar tests . It’s not required of me but it shows that I
am not ‘immune’ from following my own guidelines. I am not perfection, nor do I think that there
is such a thing. I follow my ’90/10 rule’
(I aim for a 90% good choices rate as a measure of success in a world of
inevitable change and limited control!)
As I go to social events and celebrate birthdays with my kids, I know that
the decisions that I make are in line with what I teach my patients every day
in the office. (By the way, I am the
first one to admit that making effective change in lifestyle is not easy and
talk about my struggles openly.)
You wouldn’t go to a hairstylist with bad hair; you wouldn’t
choose a financial advisor going through his own personal bankruptcy. Should patients expect their doctors to be
living examples of their life’s work? For me, it’s logical to be one consistent
person in all my mini-worlds because constancy of action and action that
follows my beliefs makes my life simple and true.