Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dr. Esther, where are you?

Until yesterday, I had not been to a gynecologist in ten years, although I have continued to be a woman all this time, so I made an appointment for a check-up.

The doctor I saw is one of five or six in her practice, none of whom I had ever met before. For several years I have been seen by their nurse practitioner, but my various test results were sent to one of the doctors.

When I called, I told the receptionist that I would like to actually see a doctor this year. If Dr. X is my official doctor, I thought we should at least meet each other. I know, it's a novel idea.

The doctor did not shake my hand when she walked in, nor was she even slightly friendly. She barely looked at me and mumbled something about my having seen Irene, her nurse practitioner, in the past. I said that Irene is lovely but that I had wanted to meet one of the doctors.

She gave me the most perfunctory examination I have ever had, and when she palpated my breasts she hurt me. I winced several times and even said, "That hurts," but she didn't adjust the pressure. She also did not have me sit up so she could check them for symmetry as other doctors have always done. Apparently it means something if they are not symmetrical but since it didn't come up, I have no idea what that might be.

She answered my questions as briefly, even grudgingly, as possible and I was dismissed. It felt as if she had one foot out the door the whole time she was with me.

I can only assume she was furious that I had had the temerity to challenge the system by asking to see an actual doctor when she had more important things to do. It's possible she felt criticized. Or perhaps I bored her because I have no serious diseases or abnormalities. (And I'm symmetrical.)

Although her credentials are excellent, it was a most unpleasant experience and I won't be going back there.

I may be unclear (or naive) about the concept of professionalism, but this is not a person I would want to entrust with my life if the situation demanded it. If I were ill, I would not want her anywhere near me.

I wonder if this is a peculiarity of the profession. Years ago when I lived in Nashville, TN, I had a bleeding problem and sought a gynecologist who could cure it.

The first doctor was unable to make eye contact with me. As he ran down the hall he called back over his shoulder that his receptionist would give me a video about hormone replacement therapy.

I was so angry that I drove home much too fast and got a ticket.

The next one I saw was a Chinese woman. I absolutely prefer female gynecologists, and I also hoped she would know something about Traditional Chinese Medicine. She didn't, but she did perform an endometrial biopsy, which is an extremely painful procedure, after assuring me that I would only feel a tiny pinch.

When I finally fell off the ceiling she informed me that she hadn't gotten enough tissue and would have to do it again. No way was that going to happen. Now that I knew she could do that, it would have been walking into an ambush. I took my toys and went home.

The third doctor told me that my problem was God's will and ordered me to go home and be a good wife to my husband and a good mother to my children because a good woman does not question God's will.

I got another speeding ticket.

The fourth doctor made a pass at me.

I drove home so fast that the highway patrol couldn't see me, and did not get a ticket.

The fifth doctor insisted that I have surgery. I resisted because I had just had reconstructive surgery on my right hand middle finger after cutting all the tendons, which provided a permanent installation for obscene gestures.

She told me it was possible that I had cancer and we would only know if I let her operate.

Her reasoning could not be argued with, so I agreed. I did not have cancer but a uterine polyp, which she removed. She even showed me photographs. My polyp was sunset-colored and the size of a ping-pong ball.

She was wonderful -- intelligent, knowledgeable, and completely accessible. Most importantly, I felt that she cared. If I were ill, she is exactly the kind of doctor I would want on my case.

I wish she lived in San Francisco because I really miss her.


Warty Mammal said...

Christ. I wonder if some of these folks obtained their diplomas via mail order?

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I don't know what to say. That's appalling. I think you should send the first part of your post to her practice.

Chris said...

Wow!! What nerve you have!! Asking to see a real doctor? Who do you think you are? The Queen of England? Seriously though? Whatever happened to good bedside manners? You should've reached up and grabbed hold of one of her boobs and said "Not like THIS!!!! Do it gently, like this..." Teeheehee

LMAO @ your final picture. Reminds me of "not a gyno but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night"

I've always had those same jerks for doctors. Only recently did I find one that actually stuck around in the room and talked to me like A) I wasn't an idiot because I didn't have a degree B) I wasn't wasting his time and C) My problems weren't just in my head.

Molly said...

I like Chris' idea! That would teach her. It seems that the ideal of "First, do no harm" has been replaced with "Make lots of money and treat them like slabs of meat!"

Glad that after "kissing all those toads" you found a decent one. They are still out there. Problem: How the hell to find them!

Molly said...

Rhubarb's idea is also excellent!
"Ve haf vays off making you behave!"

the walking man said...

Because my past was being probed related to questions non medical I had to come up with a list of all doctors I have seen in the past 15 years.

37. Of the 37 I would actually only ever go back to 4 and like a gun nut they would have to pry my cold dead file away from my Primary Care Physician, a female GP.

The other 33 can all go...get a damn speeding ticket as they rush to collect insurance money for services not rendered.

nick said...

My first thought was that so much bad doctoring must result from the semi-private health service in the States but it's just as common in the UK. I certainly don't have any faith in my present GP who never seems to investigate my symptoms properly and suggests either drugs or some routine procedure that doesn't actually help. I hope I never have to consult her about anything truly serious. But as Molly says, how the hell do you track down a really conscientious, clued-up doctor?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I'm glad that you found a good gyne when it mattered. Symmetrical, eh? That's got to be rare.

thailandchani said...

So many doctors take that attitude. It's a socially-sanctioned God complex. Yecht!


heartinsanfrancisco said...


You could be onto something. It wouldn't surprise me.


I looked her up online. She's been in practice for 40 years, so I doubt that I would have an effect.


Yes, as it happens I DO think I'm the Queen of England. Is that a problem?

Your solution reminds me of my old friend Jim who held onto his dentist's testicles and said, "We're not going to hurt each other, are we, John?"

Thank you for your visit!


I did find a good one, but she's in Nashville and I'm in San Francisco now. I doubt she'd remember me after all these years or I would call for a referral.


You seem a tad cynical. And I couldn't agree more.

4 out of 37 doesn't sound like very good odds. For every great doctor, there are about 50 self-important charlatans.


I hope you never have to consult her on anything serious, too.

Apparently advocating for oneself is being a troublemaker.


It is? Really? Hmmm. How do you know this?


You think? People seem to grow more "godly" in direct proportion to how much they are needed.

Rachel said...

oy! good grief.

i dont like going to doctors, myselfL the whole greedy sumbitches thing is what does it for me, but I dont think ive ever had that kind of experience.

My smpathies.

And we have the greatest health care in the world!! (/snark)

Jocelyn said...

You have a gift for making uncaring assholes seem funny.

I have to say, my best medical experiences have been with nurse practitioners. There's something healthier about their egos...and the whole interaction.

The CEO said...

One of my favorite topics, the lack of competence in medicine today. My wife has the same problem in finding a decent gynecologist. I have run into great surgeons, but below them, there's not a large amount of talent. Too many seem to feel that they are "owed" for their internship and residency. Not so many went into medicine for the love of it. If this is what we're going to get, they should open medical school enrollment so we have more doctors and let the competition sort out the good ones as opposed to the shortage keeping the bad ones in business.

Anonymous said...

"The third doctor told me that my problem was God's will and ordered me to go home and be a good wife to my husband and a good mother to my children because a good woman does not question God's will."

You are freaking kidding me! That is inexcusable, and the others also sound absurd. I have had a couple of truly wonderful OB's - the kind who are compassionate and gentle and take their time. Guess I should count myself as lucky!

Bob said...

so - was the fourth GYN male or female?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


To be very fair, I know several excellent doctors here, but this one would have been a great concentration camp torturer.

I really hate that in a doctor.


NOW you tell me.

Yes, Irene, the nurse practitioner, was always very nice. I screwed up.


It's also possible that if more people went into medicine, there would be more uncaring assholes.

Our primary care doctor is fantastic. He sees people as walk-ins after those with appointments are done and stays as long as it takes every night. He never hurries. He treats you as if you are his only patient, and I doubt that he makes big bucks like the specialists.


It was the Bible Belt, and that particular doctor was at Baptist Hospital. I suppose I should have known better - Scopes Monkey Trials and all that.

If I had taken his advice, I'd be dead now.


Male. Why do you ask?

meno said...

I too have left more than one gynocologist appointment either enraged or in tears, neither of which is like me.

I do have to tell you one story. I went to a clinic for the first time, having made an appointment with, and expecting to see a female doctor.

Turned out she was busy, so, gulp, i said the dude would be okay. And while i was there, in THE POSITION, someone knocked on the door, and he opened it and proceeded to have a conversation while several people walked by the door, making eye contact with me whilst i lay flat on my back with my feet in the air.

Bob said...

no reason in particular - it just struck me as amusing that you listed the gender of doctors 1-3 and not #4, especially since #4 made a pass at you and then you sped away so fast you couldn't appear on radar.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Can you say INSENSITIVE, children? I knew you could.

That's unbelievable. How would he have liked his bits dangling in the breeze while people loitered in the doorway eating ham sandwiches?


Your reasoning is impeccable. I didn't realize that even retelling this story years later, I whipped through that particular detail.

It would have been offensive no matter what gender the doctor was.

On a limb with Claudia said...

grrrrr!! I've had awful experiences with OBGYNs I've been thinking of never going again. Oh... I could go on and on and on.... I was thinking of going to Planned Parenthood next time...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


PP sounds like a good idea. This post explains why I didn't see a gyn for 10 years.

You also have to wonder what makes male doctors go into this field.