Dr. David Clements at Carolina Internal Medicine – my primary doc for the whole 15 years I have been in Asheville – is a really fine doctor. He gives you all his focus when he is with you – though it is hard to ignore that his clock is running. He is a good listener, friendly and respectful, and seems pretty consistently knowledgeable about and relatively open to the newer and more integrative approaches about which I want to talk to him.
His associate Dr. ____, to whom I have been shunted twice recently when I went to the “Walk-in Clinic” for my infected foot, is probably good at the technical aspects of medicine – in fact, the first time I saw him I instinctively trusted his competence. But in managing the relationship with the patient, at least in our two meetings, I thought he sucked. But he did give me great opportunities to practice my assertive truth-telling – and my central grounding strategy of “Leave it out”. In fact, it was precisely because he so greatly pissed me off that he gave me so many opportunities to “leave out” doing battle with him, even when he seemed to so quickly become defensive and combative.
I probably should not have gotten off my sarcastic comment to him in our first meeting, regardless of how satisfying that was to me. That would have been a good one to “leave out”. He had just asked me a question that, to me, seemed so stupid (maybe I was missing some important context) that I genuinely had a hard time not saying something like, “That seems like a really stupid question”. (I think i did actively leave that question out, which in itself was pretty good.)
“So you saw your podiatrist two weeks ago?” “Right.”
“And he did not comment on this redness and swelling then?” “No, I don’t think there was any sign of it then.”
(I had already told him that this symptom came on just five days before this appointment – I’m already working at keeping my patience.)
“And he saw you in his office?” (“Where else?”, I wonder. I just give him a quizzical cock of my head.)
He apparently thinks that my non-response means I just haven’t heard him, so he says a bit louder, “He saw you in his office?” “No, in the supermarket.”
That is – overall, I know – not the kind of shit you want to be giving your physician. But I couldn’t help it, he was already really pissing me off. But unloading this seemed to relax me and I played nice with him after that. I even almost apologized: “Hey, I’m tired and in pain – and you may be hearing that in some of my responses.”
I even found a couple of opportunities to appreciate his thoroughness – which I really did appreciate – and it seemed like things were cool between us by the end of the meeting. When he said goodbye, he called me “man”. My old orthopedist used to call me by the “buddyism” man. I don’t know if it happens anywhere in the country but Asheville that your physician will call you “man”, but I kinda like it. And between me and Dr. ____, it seemed like code that he was no longer mad at me.