Is There a Doctor in the House?

Posted On Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Is There a Doctor in the House?

I was called up from the Reserves to active duty to serve as a medical officer for Operation Desert Storm, during which I broke my back. I was transferred to Wilford Hall in San Antonio, TX and was placed at bed rest in a large 10- bed ward.

Every day, I waited for that moment or two when the surgical team would round on me. Afterward, the nurses would help wheel my bed down to the hallway where the pay phone was located.

Back then there were no cell phones, so I would pop in a bunch of quarters and call my wife. The first question out of her mouth was always this: “What did the doctor say?”

Notice it was always the doctor. Not the team of specialists. Not the Red team or Trauma team. Not the surrogate for the internist.

I realized how much it meant to me and my family to hear directly from my doctor; I needed that update from him every day.

I swore if I ever got back on my feet again after this back injury, I was going to round on my patients so that I would see them every single day they were in the hospital. I would also make it a point of stopping in to see them at dinner time when their families were most likely to be around so I could answer questions they might have.

After I got back on my feet, I kept my promise. I also encouraged someone in the family to always keep a notebook and to write down all the lab tests and studies that were being scheduled or performed so I could make sure to get the results for them.

It is too easy in this day and age to cut the patient up into pieces, both bureaucratically and by organ system. Nine times out of ten when I ask a patient on rounds who is his or her surgeon, they tell me they belong to the Blue team but don’t know any specific surgeon’s name!

So, it’s time to return to old-style medicine where the patient knows there is one doctor with whom the buck stops. One doctor who all the consults call.

I know we have all kinds of systems of intensivists and hospitalist, etc. But what’s the point if the patient thinks his medical care is in the hands of a hapless, faceless, nameless committee?

It’s time to make sure patients know who their doctor in the house is.

Allan Hamilton, MD

Allan Hamilton, MD, started his working life as a janitor. He would eventually go on to graduate from Harvard Medical School and complete his neurosurgical residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Hamilton holds four Professorships at the University of Arizona in Neurosurgery, Radiation Oncology, Psychology, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

He has been chosen by his neurosurgical peers as “One of America’s Best Doctors” for the last eighteen consecutive years and selected as “One of the Leading Intellects of the Twenty-First Century.” Dr. Hamilton has held positions as Chief of Neurosurgery, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Arizona. Dr. Hamilton now serves as Executive Director of the Arizona Simulation Technology and Education Center, a multi-disciplinary think-tank at the Arizona Health Sciences Center devoted to developing new technologies and training procedures to reduced preventable medical adverse events.

He has authored more than 20 medical textbook chapters, 50 peer-review research articles, and has served on the editorial board of several medical journals. He is also a decorated Army officer who served in Operation Desert Storm.

Dr. Hamilton's first book, The Scalpel and the Soul (2008,Tarcher/Penguin USA) was awarded the 2009 Nautilus Silver Award, which was conceived to recognize world-changing books. In 2012, his second book, Zen Mind, Zen Horse—The Science and Spirituality of Training Horses (2011, Storey Publishing) won the Nautilus Gold Award. Previous Nautilus Gold Award winners include Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His books have been translated into several languages.

He has been the subject of two award-winning documentaries. The first is Playing with Magic, which chronicles his work with horses and was directed by Emmy-award winning director, Wayne Ewing. The second, Consider the Conversation, reviews his advocacy for end-of-life care for terminally-ill patients and was recently featured on PBS. His equine work has been showcased on NBC's Today Show, ABC News, CNN, and PBS. He is a frequent guest on NPR, and has been featured in Western Horseman, Equus, and Horse & Rider.

For the last several years Dr. Hamilton has served as medical script consultant on more than 150 episodes of the hit TV series Grey’s Anatomy and four seasons with Private Practice. He is listed with several speakers bureaus, is an Elite Speaker for Cunard’s Enrichment Programme, and has served as either a keynote or invited speaker at over three hundred events.

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