My name is Dr., just Dr., with a period

In my blog posts, I try very hard to always blend a medical issue with a comment on recent  and/or cutting-edge technology. I believe that this is a gift that I have been given, to have a unique perspective on the combination of medicine and technology because of my background and experience. But I would like to take a few moments and explain why first and foremost, I will always be  a physician.

For various reasons, some of which being health, I stopped actively practicing clinical medicine a few years ago. For a time, I continued to provide remote consulting services which definitely helped to keep me abreast of medical updates. In addition, I read every day in an attempt to stay up-to-date both on medical issues and technology.I think it is a basic responsibility of a physician, no matter how busy, to make the effort to constantly stay updated.

One of the benefits of working in a group practice, or associated with an academic medical center, is that you are surrounded by very Type A personalities that also stay as up-to-date as possible. I am now working as a technologist on a large-scale medical project for a large medical service company. I have to stay up-to-date because I have to create teaching materials for other physicians. I am honored to have this responsibility.

Being a physician has always meant something very special to me. I don’t know why physicians are regularly called “doctor”, whereas other specialists in non-medical fields, tend not to be called by their profession. You could be the best electrician in the world, but your formal title remains Mr. or Ms. But the moment you get an MD, you are called Dr. <your name> for the rest of your life.

I believe that the reason for this is that being a physician is supposed to be a 24/7 lifestyle. It is the ultimate non-9-to-5 job. You could be on vacation for the first time in five years, but if someone starts to choke, you are expected to stop anything you are doing and to step in and help. Once again, I am honored to have such a responsibility.

It might sound very strange to say this, considering how often it is an issue, but in medicine, you should always put your own ego aside. It really is about the patient. Whether you just cured cancer or have removed a bead from a child’s nose, you are part of a team that shares in its victories and failures. When medicine cannot help cure a dying patient, I believe that every physician should mourn the fact. Otherwise, every physician really hasn’t earned the right to share in medicine’s great moments.

In the recent Ebola breakout, which by the way is still raging across Africa, there was a huge debate within the American medical world, whether the first doctor that examined the first Ebola patient in the US, made a mistake. I personally found this whole debate to be baseless. The first doctor did miss the diagnosis. And probably 99% of physicians would have missed the diagnosis, under similar circumstances. The point of sharing the story about how this Ebola case was missed, was to send a message to every doctor to stay aware. Every physician should have felt awkward about this miss. And when every physician has internalized the responsibility of such a miss, then every physician can share in the joy when a cure is finally found for Ebola.

As quaint and perhaps naïve as it may sound, I still strongly believe that medicine is a noble profession. I believe that a physician understands that his or her own welfare  may very well be sacrificed in order to care for patients. I have seen great men and women, with the word “doctor” on the back of their jackets, running into a situation that is highly dangerous. Unquestionably, anyone who runs into such a situation is to be admired and appreciated. But I believe a physician has a special responsibility to be involved.

I personally did not want my children to become physicians. I did not want them to carry this responsibility. I did not want them to continue to work round-the-clock, while their spouses and children lead their lives without them. But someone does have to be there to do this work. And that is why I continue to admire and respect my colleagues, young and old, less and more experienced, independent of specialty or location in the world.

When people ask what the future of medicine will be, I personally believe that the day-to-day chores of medical practice will be taken over by technology. But medicine will remain a noble profession, if physicians continue to embrace a noble outlook and behavior. I do not know what a  doctor will be responsible for, in 50 years from now or 100 years from now. But what should never change is people knowing that the title of “Dr.” will still mean caring and treating those in need.

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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