Connections: Doctor, Doctor

They are as different as different can be

Although I have a good primary-care physician here at home, I am under the care of two other doctors, a podiatrist and an endocrinologist, in New York City. They are as different as different can be and, from my point of view, represent the best that can be found with or without insurance coverage.

I decided to see the foot doctor after reading, by chance, a Wall Street Journal story that mentioned him and said he didn’t believe in surgery. I was referred to the endocrinologist after the results of a bone-density test were unsettling.

The doctors couldn’t be more different in the way they interact with patients. To begin with, the podiatrist takes no insurance, including Medicare, and his fees are, to my way of thinking at least, exorbitant. He also is known to order radiological procedures that aren’t covered. I have an idea that he pays almost no attention to whatever written records are kept, as he reacts with a fresh eye to what he observes on any given visit. When he arrives in the examining room, he asks me how everything is in the Hamptons, takes a look at the foot with the problem, and is gone in a flash. As I check out, his staff asks if I want to schedule another visit, but he hasn’t said a word to me about whether or not I need one. 

You might ask why I persist in going to him? 

It turns out that he has just about cured a longstanding infection by prescribing an ointment that apparently is otherwise indicated for the scalp (as crazy as that sounds . . . and my apologies for the over-sharing!). He is associated with one of the city’s best hospitals, and despite his offhand style, his reputation as someone who achieves results seems warranted.

The endocrinologist, on the other hand, will sit down and talk, a more old-fashioned approach. I have never been tall, and lately have been forced to admit to being a few inches shorter than I used to be; the goal now is to keep my bones as strong as possible, which will also help keep me from, well, shrinking. She has recommended a drug to be infused every six months and discussed its possible side effects. And she said the best thing I could do to help myself was to walk! That’s a prescription I can live with. Furthermore, her secretary is so helpful she truly warrants the title of administrative assistant. 

Sensitive that my share of the cost of the infused drug is high, the endocrinologist made inquiries last week about why the prescription had not arrived when I was scheduled for treatment this week, on Monday. By Friday, however, no one was available to let me know if the infusion procedure could still take place. That left me in a spot. Was I going to get on an early Jitney for the city only to find the appointment had to be canceled? Or was I to stay home only to find I had missed the infusion?

And then, on Sunday night, my cellphone rang. It was 10 p.m. The assistant was calling to apologize about my inability to reach her on Friday — and to tell me to stay home. The procedure would be rescheduled. A phone call late on Sunday night? Talk about old-fashioned care.

The moral of this story is that there are physicians of the finest calibre available, with or without insurance. I am lucky to be able to afford one of a new school, all efficiency and no chit-chat; and to have found another of the old school, who has perfected what they used to call beside manner. If anyone would like their numbers, give me a ring.