LifeAfterDx--Diabetes Uncensored

A internet journal from one of the first T1 Diabetics to use continuous glucose monitoring. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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Location: New Mexico, United States

Hi! I’m William “Lee” Dubois (called either Wil or Lee, depending what part of the internet you’re on). I’m a diabetes columnist and the author of four books about diabetes that have collectively won 16 national and international book awards. (Hey, if you can’t brag about yourself on your own blog, where can you??) I have the great good fortune to pen the edgy Dear Abby-style advice column every Saturday at Diabetes Mine; write the Diabetes Simplified column for dLife; and am one of the ShareCare diabetes experts. My work also appears in Diabetic Living and Diabetes Self-Management magazines. In addition to writing, I’ve spent the last half-dozen years running the diabetes education program for a rural non-profit clinic in the mountains of New Mexico. Don’t worry, I’ll get some rest after the cure. LifeAfterDx is my personal home base, where I get to say what and how I feel about diabetes and… you know… life, free from the red pens of editors (all of whom I adore, of course!).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Is there a doctor in the house?

So as a kid I was called Willy, which I hated. As a young man I was Wil, with one “L,” just to be different. When I came to New Mexico, the place I worked at already had a Bill. My boss felt it would confuse people to have a Wil and a Bill and asked me to use my middle name. My middle name is my Father’s name. It seemed waaaaaay to weird to use it myself. “So pick a name,” I was instructed. How about Liam? (The Irish diminutive of William). “Never heard it. We’ll just call you Lee.” And so it was.

So my family calls me Wil. My wife Lee. And when I worked at the hospital my name tag said William and everyone shortened it to Bill with out asking me. Bill is my cousin. I got introduced at the clinic as Lee, so that’s what I’m called there.

In short, I don’t know what the hell my name is, and people shouting any of my names as I cross a parking lot are likely to get no response out of me. Probably how that rumor I’m deaf got started.

At the clinic we have these cute little appointment cards, that have a small sticker that can be pealed off an put on your calendar that says you have an appointment with Dr.________ on such a such a date and such and such a time. The front desk fills these out for my patients. So you have an appointment with Dr. Lee on such a such a date and such and such a time.

When I was first at the clinic I was always careful when meeting people to emphasize that I’m not a doctor, nor a nurse, but just one of them with knowledge and experience to share. I think I’m formally classified as a Health Educator. My business card says “Diabetes Coordinator” and my name badge says “Diabetic Educator.”

After I’d been there a couple of months the front desk girl gave me a heads-up that patients were calling and asking for appointments with Dr. Lee. She thought it was a riot. I groaned, resolved to stamp this out, and worried about how my boss, a real doctor, would react to all of this.

It took me a while to realize that the appointment cards were the cause of a lot of the trouble. I also knew that a middle-aged white guy who wears a stethoscope and works at a community health center that serves a minority population was bound to be mistaken for a doctor. (That actually happened a number of times before I worked in Health Care….I must have a doctor-like look. The clerk at my wife’s favorite shoe store once asked me a medical question. I have no idea. “Aren’t you a Doctor?” No, I run a photo lab. “Oh… (greatly disappointed), I thought you were a Doctor...”

So much for my macho globe-trotting photojournalist self image.

But back to our regularly scheduled story….

One day Juanita (nothing like her real name), one of my senior citizen patients, came for an appointment and brought along her five-year-old grandson. She introduced him, “I’d like you to meet Dr. Lee.” The boy peaked out from behind her legs, “Hello, Dr. Lee.”

Crap! Ok so here’s the problem. I work in a Hispanic society, so there are certain rules ya need to follow, even as an assimilated outsider. Manners and respect to elders are a really big deal here. I chose not to correct her because I didn’t want her to look foolish in front of her grandson. I bit my tongue, crossed the Rubicon and let it go. I extended my hand to the boy and said simply, you can call me Lee.

I’ve stuck with that line ever since, with considerable guilt and overall lack of comfort.

Since that time, even patients that know perfectly well that I’m not a doctor have started calling me Dr. Lee. Some to tease me. Some out of respect. Some just ‘cause everyone else is doing it. Yikes. What a mess. One time recently I tried to correct a woman who should have known better. I’m not a doctor, you know. “Oh well, you know so much you ought to be. They should just make you one.” Ummmm…. I pretty sure that it’s one of those things you have to work hard at for a long time. No field commissions in the medical ranks.

I’m thinking I should get an on-line PhD in underwater basket weaving just so I don’t feel like some sort of…. counterfeit? …charlatan? …Imposter. That’s the word. I feel like an imposter. The Unintentional Imposter, good title for my autobiography.

So last week I was meeting with a new Dx. He’d gotten very sick and had gone to ER where they found his blood sugar was like 800 or some such. They kept him for a day or two and sent him home with vials of insulin and scanty instructions.

Hi, I’m Lee. I understand you’ve had a crappy week. I want you to know it’s all uphill from here on out. Soon you’re going to be feeling so much better you won’t be able to believe it. You can live with this, and it really isn’t that hard.

“Everyone in town has been telling me I should come see Dr. Lee for my diabetes,” he told me, “but I was expecting an Oriental Gentleman.”


Blogger Scott S said...

And lets not forget how you became a doctor without all those years of med school, residency, etc.!

9:40 AM  
Blogger Bad Decision Maker said...

This was an interesting post.

Don't feel too too guilty because you probably are helpful to people, and more helpful/effective in improving their health than many doctors. Obviously you play a valuable role as a healthcare educator/coordinator, and it would be nice if our society had a way to value that role highly without having to use the title/status of doctor, but I think partly it just reflects your knowledge and helpfulness.

I also know your experience, and guilt, a little bit. A few people in medical records at one of the hospitals I work at call me doctor. Which is crazy, because I am 22, and often told I look 17, and am doing the grunt work of chart review for a public health study. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that my father, aunt, and uncle were doctors at that hospital, and probably my whiteness too. It does make me feel weird and slightly guilty, but also I don't want to be rude to people my elders in both age and experience by correcting too emphatically (I have mentioned many times that I'm not a doctor).

My mom, a nurse practitioner, also got called doctor all the time by patients and other professionals when she worked at a community health clinic. Her patients doing this I think reflected her being their knowledgeable primary care provider, but when non-patients did it, race was definitely involved. She is a white woman and her supervising physician was a black woman the same age, and whenever they met someone for the first time, people would automatically assume she was the doctor and address her as such. Racism's ability to color our assumptions is so strong...

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I started reading this blog, and saw the "Dr. Lee" name, I thought of one we had around here, and thought the same thing: " You don't look Asian'. I met a dietitian at one practice who had an Asian name but was blue eyed with light brown hair; she got the name by marriage.

Too bad there is not another respectable title for some who are not docs, but have some training and position... Especially since you are probably a better "medical analyzer and advisor" than quite a few MDs we have seen.

4:17 PM  

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