Commentary

How I became a better doctor


 

Changed perspective on practice

I had always thought of myself as a warm, caring, and empathic psychiatrist, but my experience as a cardiac patient made me realize that there is always room for improvement in treating my patients.

Remember, every doctor will become a patient one day, and the reality of illness, injury, and mortality may really hit you hard, as it did me. You may not receive any prioritized treatment and you will know what it feels like to be helpless, vulnerable, and at the mercy of a physician while you regress in the service of the ego and become a patient.

You can be a better doctor now if you are mindful that whatever the physical, emotional, or mental issue facing your patients, the problem may be catastrophic to them. They need your undivided attention. Any problem is a significant event to your presenting patient. Really listen to his or her concerns or questions, and address every one with patience, understanding, and accurate information. Be genuine, empathetic, and nonjudgmental toward your patient so he or she will be open and honest with you. If you follow these lessons, which I learned the hard way, you can become a better doctor.

I followed my doctor’s instructions and I started hitting tennis balls gradually. I worked myself back into shape and with my daughter Julia Cohen, and we won the USTA National Father Daughter Clay Court Championship in Florida 6 months after I had the heart attack during a national tennis tournament. This is the comeback of the year in tennis!

Dr. Cohen has had a private practice in psychiatry for more than 35 years. He is a former professor of psychiatry, family medicine, and otolaryngology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Dr. Cohen has been a nationally ranked tennis player from age 12 to the present, served as captain of the University of Pennsylvania tennis team, and ranked No. 1 in tennis in the middle states section and in the country in various categories and times. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

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