Hitting a Nerve

Neurologists are not electricians. Nor are we internists.


Recently, like in other major cities, Phoenix had a flyover by the Blue Angels to honor frontline health care workers. My kids and I watched it. While I think the gesture is nice, in my mind it brings up questions about whether the money for it could have been better spent elsewhere. But that’s not the point of my column.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Watching the whole thing, I couldn’t help but think about my role in the crisis. While I have friends on the front lines, I’m certainly not there. I’m probably as close to back line as you can be without being retired.

This is simply the nature of my practice. I’m primarily outpatient. Inpatient consults are few and far between in the era of the neuro-hospitalist. I still see patients, both by video and in person. If someone wants to come in and see me, I’ll be available if I’m able.

I see a lot of conditions, but no one is going to a neurologist to be evaluated for COVID-19. Nor should they. Even though there are reports of neurological complications of the disease, none of them are outpatient issues or presenting symptoms.

I was asked if I’d volunteer to practice inpatient general medicine in a pinch, and my answer to that would have to be no. This isn’t cowardice, as one person accused me of. I’ve been to the hospital and seen patients since this started.

I’m no more an internist than I am an electrician. Like other neurologists of my era, I did a 1-year general medicine internship. For me, that was in 1993. I haven’t practiced it since, nor have I kept up on it except as it crosses into neurology.

A lot has changed in the last 27 years in my field alone. For me to jump back into general medicine after that time would likely do more harm than good to the patients I would see.

So I sit in my office doing what I always have: Trying to provide the best care I can to those who do need my services as a neurologist.

I may not be on the front line in our current crisis, but for those who seek my help I’m still front and center for them. And I will be until I retire.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has no relevant disclosures.

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