I have been a physician for more than half my life now, and not since the early nineties have I had any comments about looking too young to be a doctor. In fact, for the last ten years I have been the oldest doctor in town. That changed recently, and it has been a delightful experience.
I have mentioned Dr. Wilford Brown before. I chose him as my doctor when I turned 50, then he retired from his practice and chose me as his doctor earlier this year. Our paths became even more intertwined this summer when our clinic needed to hire a locum tenens, a part-time doctor to help out during summer vacations. Dr. Brown heard we were in the market for such a doctor, expressed his interest, and came out of retirement.
I now have the privilege of working with my former personal physician, a man twenty years my senior. I have worked alongside the same small group of doctors for several years now, and we seldom surprise each other. Having some fresh blood in the form of Dr. Brown has been very interesting. I have come to respect him even more than I did when he was my personal physician.
There is a wonderful sense of economy in how Dr. Brown works. He says just enough to handle the issue at hand, yet he connects with patients very quickly and his decision-making is quick and to the point. His office notes are concise, and he gets his dictation done immediately after each patient visit. His desk is always clear, and he seldom stays more than fifteen minutes after the last appointment ends at five. He never seems to get upset; if a patient tries to manipulate or bully him, he just calls it like he sees it and doesn’t seem to waste his energy fretting about it. At seventy-five, he sees patients every fifteen minutes with greater ease than most doctors I have observed.
Dr. Brown asks me now and then how I would handle a case and occasionally when he sees a patient of mine he will think of something I hadn’t thought of. He uses his extensive professional network to “curbside” (consult) specialists over the phone, and is razor-sharp about where his competence begins and ends. I am sure he sleeps like a baby at night. He also has a keen sense for the stories and human dramas we encounter as physicians. I have found a soul brother in him when it comes to finding the stepping-stones for personal and professional growth that practicing medicine provides. For the first time in many years I have a colleague who is both a friend and a mentor.
He has accepted our offer to stay on as a part-time physician after the summer. I hope he doesn’t retire on me again too soon.