Saturday, October 16, 2010


When a group of us would go to the WWF/WWE wrestling matches and sometimes the Golden Gloves events in Holyoke we spent as much time looking at the spectators as at the matches. As outlandish as the wrestlers were they were tame compared to the many of the people in the crowd.

I had an enormous logistical challenge in arranging medical coverage for a 120 day absence. There's a shortage of Primary Care Physicians in Western Massachusetts and it seemed like mission impossible that I was going to find covering doctors who would see my patients in my office. In the end it wasn't that hard at all because everybody wanted to help. See the article written in The Republican 10/13/2010

Similarly, I had to tell patients, some with multiple medical problems who have seen only me for over a decade that I was going to Iraq. In the end it turned out to be easy.

The real story is not about a physician going to Iraq it's about eighty year old patients telling me that they're going to be fine because they actually like the idea that they're going to be inconvenienced so that our soldiers will get the medical care they need.

In a world where we routinely put ourselves first and we're all out for number one and whether we listen to rap music or any music everything seems to be about ourselves and getting more for ourselves. I admit that I've always been a military wannabe but wannabes generally stay as wannabees and just fantasize about things that are never going to happen. I'm headed for Iraq because someone told me that our soldiers had a critical shortage of medical providers and somebody looked me in the eye and asked me to do it.

Well, since the recruiter had such good results by simply looking me in the eye and asking me to help our soldiers I decided to do the same thing when I went out looking for the help that I needed. I put out the word that I needed help from other physicians and amazingly getting commitments from other physicians was not hard at all. In the end I had more coverage lined up than I could use. I now have three different physicians and a nurse practitioner covering my office and every one has made a point of telling me how glad they are to be helping me to bring medical care to our soldiers.

Additionally, my office needs to be covered every day after closing and every weekend which involves coverage from my existing call group in which we share call. Same problem and the same enthusiastic response. I had to inform my call group not only that I couldn't do my share of the call for the next 4 months and additionally that I needed them to cover my practice through these four months which will all include the holidays. They quickly stepped forward, thanked me for for my decision to serve and told me how proud they would be to cover my share of the call and cover my practice as well.

The story is not just about a 58 year old doctor deciding to join the National Guard and go to Iraq it's about countless vulnerable patients who have only seen me for years and years and now that I'm leaving they want to tell me that they're going to be fine with the covering doctor because they even as senior citizens they want to make this sacrifice for the sake of American soldiers who are fighting a miserable war. It's about other doctors, several of whom were not born in the United States, delighted to find themselves in a situation where they can indirectly help our soldiers. It's everybody I know, which includes the educated and the uneducated, extreme liberals and extreme conservatives, atheists, orthodox Jews and born again Christians all showing the same degree of support with nobody injecting politics into my sendoff.

Please look at the big picture. When we'd go to the wrestling matches we'd constantly remind each other to look out into the stands at the people to see the real show. The real show is out there in the stands involving my patients, the medical community & everybody I know who, when given the chance, knew immediately how to do the right thing.


gagnej said...

Be safe, be well. All of us at Elms College are thinking of you and your family as well as our troops.
Jill Gagne

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