Not That Kind of Doctor

Mar 12 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I have planned, now for months, to write about what I expect from a new postdoc. But life has intervened, as it will. Someone that I care about has asked me "what's this medical thingy my doctor said? ... but what does it mean???" You may know the pain of trying to explain to someone that actually "I am Not That Kind of Doctor". This can be amusing/irritating, when you meet folks that you don't know very well and they want to know what the random thing on their elbow is, or are curious about why they ankle hurt only after they walk up stairs. But there is nothing more shitty when the person that is asking this question is someone in your family. Who has visited a doctor and got a scary-sounding diagnosis. And then you get called to explain "what does it mean?". Which, of course, you don't know. Because you are Not that Kind of a Doctor. I'm sorry, but I can't help here.

You need help looking at a Western blot? I'm your girl. I can help with your genetics or biology homework. But this shit is too much. I can't read between the lines and tell you "how bad it is". I wish I knew. I want to be in the room to ask all the questions that are flooding in my mind. But at this moment, my graduate training is worthless. I can tell you what the words mean (kinda). But there is no way I can tell you what they mean. I just can't.

9 responses so far

  • Clay Clark says:

    "Oh, you're a teacher." I get that all the time, usually after being asked to decipher a pill prescription.

  • BugDoc says:

    Sorry to hear that news, Gerty-Z. Even though I'm not "that kind of doctor" either, I think people like us can be a good source of information for close family members because it's pretty quick for us to read through a lot of articles or clinical reports without being intimidated by the jargon and the biology. In a similar situation, I tried to help explain medical terms and to suggest questions that should be brought up with the doctor, without getting into the implications of the diagnosis. Best wishes for you and your family....

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    Sorry for your fam member. This sort of situation sucks! My mother is the worst offender of this sort of behavior-when she of all people, should know better. I've even been hounded by family members with cancer to see if I can 'find a cure'...not really my area, but more heartbreaking than the 'What does this mean?' questions.

    my best defense is making sure that they go to reputable websites like mayo clinic, because left to their own devices, they will find some scary, largely inaccurate, shitte on the googlez.

    Good luck!

  • gerty-z says:

    Thanks, all. There is nothing good about this kind of situation. But I really hate when folks seem to think I will be able to help, but I just can't.

  • Katie says:

    I just defended my dissertation on Monday, and was at a social event with my guy and his work colleagues. He had told them that I had finished and they were congratulating me - and then came the questions about my residency...or specialty...and whether I was going to practice. I had no idea how to get them to understand, so it wasn't worth it.

    But since I've been in school, I've always been the one people in the family come to for help with medical stuff. I think it's like BugDoc says, we have access to the journal articles and can mostly understand them better than most. I mean, I look up studies from vetrinary medicine when my dog needs a procedure and probably annoy the DVM when I know more than I should about the risks and outcomes.

    Anyway, hope your family member is doing ok, maybe they just want to feel like someone else is helping them along the path and keeping things positive.

    And I am anxiously awaiting the expectations for postdocs since I am starting my postdoc in the next few months, and want to start off on right foot!

  • I have a t-shirt that simply says "Not that kind of doctor" but that confuses people as well because then they ask me what other kinds of doctors are there

  • Spiny Norman says:

    As a scientist-friend's spouse says: he's a doctor; but not the kind that helps people.

  • Ugh. I hate this too. At Christmas, when I was staying with my sister-in-law, she just suddenly came into the room, put the phone in my hand, and said "my good friend just called to say that her husband's been diagnosed with cancer - please can you talk to her?"

    "I'm not a medical doctor" were pretty much the first words out of my mouth...

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