The inhumane side of human medicine…

I recently had an appointment with my dermatologist to examine a small lump on the back of my right knee.


I arrived exactly at the scheduled time of 1:45pm. When I stepped up to the receptionist, rather than be asked my name, I was abruptly questioned, “Do you have an appointment?”
I was then told to take a seat and wait. Fifteen minutes later, a woman who failed to introduce herself or offer up her credentials, called me into an exam room. I assumed by her colorful scrub top that she worked in the office, but I had no way of differentiating her as a nurse or a serial killer.


During the walk to the exam room, her eyes remained fixated on an iPad, which had equal chance of containing my medical history or her top score on Candy Crush. I was impolitely told to have a seat on the exam table and wait.


Another 15 minutes passed before the door was abruptly opened without a knock. In walked the dermatologist and individual he introduced as “Karen”. Karen looked to be somewhere between 20-30 years old, nervous, and wore a white coat. Without proper presentation I placed her as a medical student, an intern, or his daughter.


Dr. Dermatologist asked to see the lump, and he bent down to take a look. He palpated the back of my knee for about 3 seconds and then turned to Karen and asked, “What do you think?” Karen looked terrified, but stooped to take a feel.


Several seconds of awkward silence passed before Dr. Dermatologist repeated his question, “Karen, what do you think?” More silence. “Superficial or deep?” he prodded in a bored monotone. More silence. “You have a 50/50 chance of a correct answer”, he explained.


“Well, it’s kind of superficial, but it’s also kind of deep”, was Karen’s confidant, yet completely non-committal, answer.


“Nope, it’s completely superficial.”


I found it reassuring to know his brusqueness wasn’t reserved for only his patients.


Dr. Dermatologist informed me the lesion was consistent with a scarred cyst. Without eye contact, he said, “We can do one of several things; we can leave it alone, we can inject it, or we can cut it out.” He then returned to his own iPad and resumed typing (or possibly, his own game of Candy Crush.)


“Um, well, you see, I’m a big runner, so if we cut it out, would I need to restrict my activity, because…”


An irritated voice interrupted my stammering, “Yes, you would have to refrain from running of exercise for 10 days.” More silence. More typing.


“Um, ok, well then we can try and inject it?” I said, not really sure what those words meant or what I was about to subject myself to.


Dr. Dermatologist reached in to a cabinet and retrieved a bottle of a milky white substance I immediately recognized as an injectable form of a steroid.


I tensed up, just prior to his poorly timed warning that “this will burn”.


The syringe was withdrawn, deposited in a medical waster container, and as he walked out, Dr. Dermatologist stated, “Karen, can you put a Band-Aid on that?”


Karen started awkwardly opening random drawers and cabinets before she found an adhesive bandage, which she gently applied to my skin. She exited unassumingly, and I was left to show myself out of not only the exam room, but also the office.


I could have called out the poor bedside manner of the dermatologist, or asked him to more clearly explain his surety for what my lesion was, or to go over the pros and cons to each of the options he provided me. But it was exceedingly clear that I was not the priority – his time was. As such, we both moved on with our day.


I couldn’t help but contrast my experience at the dermatologist’s office to what would happen if an owner booked a similar appointment with me to examine a lump on their dog or cat.


In such instance you would (at minimum!):


Enter our hospital and be immediately greeted by your name and your pet’s name.


Be offered coffee or tea, and a comfortable seat.


Meet one of our outstanding oncology technicians who will take you to one of our exam rooms within moments of your arrival.


Arrive at the exam room, and see a sign on the door specifically welcoming your pet (by name) to the hospital.


Be guaranteed eye contact and a compliment about how cute Fluffy or Fido is, even if they are growling or barking right at their face.


Have a complete physical exam performed on your animal, not just a quick look at the lump you are worried about.


Undergo a thorough consultation with me personally, where I will present several options for how we can proceed. Including a discussion of the pros and cons of the diagnostic and treatment options, including associated costs.


Rather than dwell on the shortcomings of my dermatologist, my experience forced me to look at myself and wonder, where is it I am letting my patients and owners down? What can I do better to make owners feel their experience is personalized and their time is valuable? I left the office thinking, “What can I do better?” I actually felt bad about myself professionally after a relatively miserable medical experience.


The ironic part is Dr. Dermatologist probably left thinking he did a pretty good job that day.


And he would also be the first one to complain about the high price of veterinary care if his own pet became sick.
Next time, maybe I’ll see if my pet’s dermatologist has an opening…


What are your experiences with your own doctor versus your veterinarian?  Who do you think does a better job when it comes to healthcare?



7 thoughts on “The inhumane side of human medicine…

  1. Shirley Hendel says:

    Dr. Intile…you never have to worry about how you interact with your clients….. when our Cody was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, you fully explained the diagnosis and well as the prognosis, all of our options and the pros and cons of all protocols… …. From the time we brought Cody on an emergency basis, everyone there has been wonderful. :-))) Shirley and Cody (Bichon Frise)


  2. Sarah says:

    I saw an urgent care doc for a spot on my foot that could be infected and my friend that looked similar to the MRSA she had a few years ago. He spent 30 seconds in the exam room and then prescribed antibiotics. And human doctors think animal medicine is the cause on antibiotic resistance… I’m a vet student and we’re being taught to be more careful with antibiotics. I know that the reality will be we will be busy in practice, but I’ve found across the board that vets taken their time no matter how busy they are. Also I can completely relate to not having the nurse introduce themselves, and I never thought about it much, but it is rather disconcerting…Great post!


  3. Lisa says:

    Hands down most veterinarians provide better service and care than MDs. I call my clients with their major test results and take time to answer all of their questions and address their concerns. I had an esophageal biopsy done recently and a nurse called me with the results. I had questions that she could not answer. Not once did she offer to have the doctor call me so I was left to do the research myself. I paid how much for that?? Plenty considering my health insurance costs over $800 a month and I still have a deductible to meet.


  4. Inde says:

    I just replaced my last MD for one who doesn’t pause a moment to check my records for my name before addressing me. My Vet knows my cat and dog’s names, often asks how the one not there for treatment is doing, and explains everything she’s doing and why during her examination. I am contacted about lab results even if they’re negative to put my mind at rest, and receive regular notifications when it’s time to bring the pets in again. My previous MD waited until my next annual exam, which I booked without a reminder call, to inform me about a lab result from the previous visit that should have been addressed immediately. All in all, I think my pets get better care than I do.


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