In the Phoenix summer days of 1998 I did a lot of walking. It wasn’t for exercise, though it was pretty good for that, I guess.
I had privileges at three hospitals, and used their staff directories to make a map of every medical office building in the area I was trying to start my practice in. I was 32, idealistic, married for a year, a child on the way, and we’d just bought our first house. So I had a lot of incentive.
The Phoenix summer isn’t conducive to walking, especially in standard medical office attire (I didn’t give that up until 2006). But I did it. I went into one office after another, introduced myself, gave them my CV, some business cards, and my pager number (yeah, I had a pager). I cooled off and drank water in my car as I drove to the next building – wash, rinse, repeat.
Occasionally the doctors I met would have a few minutes to meet me, which I appreciated. One of them, who’d been in the same boat a few years earlier himself, invited me back to his office, and we chatted for maybe 10 minutes.
We got along, and worked well together for several years. We tended to round at the same times of day and so ran into each other a lot. He sent me patients, I sent him patients, and when we met on rounds we’d talk about nothing in particular for a few minutes.
After I cut back on my hospital work I didn’t see him as much, though we still referred patients back and forth and occasionally crossed paths while covering weekends.
I found out that he retired recently.
It gave me an odd pause. I thought of our first encounter 23 years ago, me trying to get started in my profession, him established, but close enough to recall what it was like to be starting out that he spared a few minutes for me. Remembering that, I still try to make an effort to meet new physicians who come by for the same reason. Hell, they might end up taking care of me someday. Assuming a medical career is 30-40 years, I’m past the halfway point.
Not today, not tomorrow, but in the years to come my generation of physicians will start to retire, walking away from a role that has defined both our personal and professional lives.
I both am and am not looking forward to it. This was just another reminder that
Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.