In the past thirty years as a practicing dentist and now as a consultant, I have been fortunate to develop many meaningful relationships which have enriched my life in innumerable ways. The cardinal rule for relationship building was taught to me as a child, “The Golden Rule.” I am sure it is familiar to most of us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
As dentists, it is easy to get caught up in the pressure of private practice. Not only do we feel the pressure treating our patients, we have the added pressure of being an executive of a small business. At times it becomes easy to forget that the MOD on #30 is attached to a real live person. One of my favorite movies is “The Doctor”, starring William Hurt. William Hurt is cast as an arrogant surgeon, Dr. Jack, who treats patients like interchangeable cogs in the machinery of his medical practice. Dr. Jack has been ignoring a raspy throat and cough until he coughs up blood. Soon, he is diagnosed with a tumor on one of his vocal cords. He becomes the patient of Dr. Leslie Abbott who is even colder than him, she is talented but sees only problems to fix, and the person exists to her only as something to bring her the illness to cure. The doctors in the film are largely, all of the same stripe. They are supreme problem solvers who avoid any involvement with the people they are treating. The one who actually treats patients with humanity is ridiculed by his fellow doctors. As a patient, the inhuman sterility of the hospital and its policies become clear to Dr. Jack as he is treated as a container for the problem the doctors are to fix. One of the things all patients do is wait, and then wait, and then wait some more. Dr. Jack’s personal transformation during the course of the movie is compelling to watch as a health care provider.
I have watched “The Doctor” several times and each time I resolve to treat my patients and fellow team members with more humanity. Indeed a caring relationship between the doctor and patient is good medicine. I continue to enjoy the relationships that I formed during my years in private practice. I often think of the lessons of Dr. Jack. Every once in a while it is a good idea to stop, step back and have a look at the way our patients are being treated and perhaps focus a little more on relating rather than just simply curing. I highly recommend spending some time with “The Doctor” as a way of initiating the process of transforming your office into a “golden rule office” where patients are treated with the same dignity and respect we are desire.
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