Patient relationships are the treasures of family medicine

Tags: texas family physician, president, balkcom, physician, patients, relationship

By I. L. Balkcom IV, M.D.
TAFP President, 2011-2012

It’s just a small, non-descript pin. Its cash value is minimal and if found in someone’s drawer, it would be summarily thrown in the trash while other more prized items would be saved. However, this pin is a treasure to me. I will guard this pin until my time on earth has passed. While cleaning out my drawer I’m sure someone will ask why I kept this.

The middle of November found me attending a very special event for a young man of 17 years. Luke was receiving his induction as an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. I had been honored to be chosen to attend the service, as I had attended to Luke since he was a very young child. His mother and father are patients of mine also and I silently cheered for them, beaming with pride at their son’s accomplishment.

The service was nice and over soon, but something happened at the end that literally brought a tear to my eye, and with it, tremendous pride. Luke presented me a pin for being a mentor to him and helping him reach his goal. I walked to the front, received the pin and realized a great truth in defining our role as family physicians.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are not and cannot just be the evidence-based clinical robot, but we need to be a caring and loving part of our community, wherever we choose to live. To be a member of the fraternity of family medicine demands involvement in the lives of our patients very often. Sure, we need time with our own families, and patients will respect that time if you invest in their lives as well.

If the expert pundits are correct, we will soon have 28 million to 40 million additional patients to care for. This is a daunting challenge indeed and we as family physicians need to step up and fill the bill. Tirelessly, we must work with our legislators and policymakers to re-establish and sustain funding for medical education and post-graduate training. Research should always continue but not at the expense of the education of young, new doctors. If mandates have been established to provide for increasing the supply of family physicians, then let’s enforce them and be sure monies go where we really need them … to family medicine.

I am going to put my pin with my other “buried treasures” from my 24 years in family medicine; I have a drawer at work with many letters, cards, and notes. I know many of you have similar treasures. So, come join us in family medicine. Who knows, you may have a pin waiting for you, too.

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