Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The end of the NFL season also begins the annual ritual of hiring and firing of head coaches. As with any business, failure to produce (or win in football) leads to corporate soul searching to decide whether the potential for future success is possible. Hiring a new leader takes significant effort, thought and expense. The new direction comes with a new philosophy and the head coach often recruits new assistant coaches to achieve a winning environment.
Medical care should share the same game plan, but hiring a family doctor to run the medical team is not the high priority that it should be. Too often, as people age and start to develop the illnesses and injuries, they turn to a variety of specialists to fix body parts. There may be a cardiologist that deals with a heart issue, an endocrinologist that monitors thyroid or diabetes issues and an orthopedic surgeon that is checking up on the arthritis of a hip or knee, but there isn’t a doc looking after the whole patient. The ability to coordinate for the entire person is the key to a successful game plan and that point person needs to know not only about the medical needs but also about the social, psychologic and religious background that underlies any medical advice that might be given.
Young adults have the air of invincibility, not worrying about being healthy and active 30 years down the line. In times of good health, patients see no need to establish care with a head doctor who will share the philosophy of long term health maintenance. Having a routine checkup can sometimes be inconvenient and cost money and yet it may be the best money ever spent. Routine checkups serve not only to promote and reinforce healthy lifestyle choices like diet, exercise and smoking, but also allow regular screening for diseases that can be silent killers; high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. And it’s a time for the doctor and patient to begin serious discussions about quality of life issues and CPR. This is the doc that will be you advocate and follow your wishes should a crisis ever occur.
Preventive maintenance is something that we practice routinely in our lives. Cars need to have routine oil changes and furnaces need to be inspected and have filters changed. We make time for looking after our stuff because we had to spend money to buy it and it’s expensive to repair or replace a car. We seem to place less value on our bodies because we got it for free, yet the cost of repair can be huge and replacement parts tend not to meet the standards of factory originals.
When the owner of a football team decides to hire a head coach, it takes time and effort. Potential candidates are screened to make sure that the coaching philosophy and personality area a good fit. The same strategies and effort need to occur to hire a doctor. This is the person that will share very personal thoughts and emotions. This is the person that will grow old with you, guide you and share life milestones. This is the person that may celebrate marriages and births and help console through divorce and death. These are relationships that take time to build so that advice can be trusted.
As with any relationship, both sides benefit and the doctor won’t stay if there is no reward. There may be small joys that are easily seen like a laceration that is sutured leaving a tiny scar or an infection that is recognized and treated. Most often, though, the victories take decades to appreciate. A person whose diabetes is well controlled won’t go blind or need an amputation. The person with good blood pressure readings won’t have a stroke or heart attack. The reward and satisfaction is in the journey.
For the next few weeks, the sports pages will be filled with speculation about coaches who will be hired and fired. Hopefully, the passion and interest you show in the future of your favorite team could be matched by the passion you have for your future health.