06 May 2008

TBR-8: Do We Practice What We Preach?

Welcome to the 8th episode of The Blog Rounds, a compendium of select posts from medical bloggers of the Philippines. For this edition, I thought of asking THE one question which patients may be very curious about, but were hesitant to ask their respective doctors. Last week, I wondered if doctors follow and take their own dose of healthy advice. As they say, talk is cheap. Most of the time, what matters most is if we do believe and adhere to the things we often enjoin our patients to follow.

In the Philippines, aside from local town fiestas and Santacruzans, the merry month of May is also a month of annual medical conventions. Even as I type this, the Philippine College of Physicians is meeting once more for the 38th time at the SMX near the Mall of Asia. This gave me an idea of making this episode of The Blog Rounds unique. Imagine a plenary session of local medical bloggers and their patients. There's a row of chairs in the stage, and all the medbloggers are present. Now, instead of punishing their patient-audience with the drivel of boring lectures, visualize that the ongoing conversation is of the simple interview type.

Patients are asking questions.....and our local medbloggers are answering.....

Question: Do you also have a regular form of exercise or physical activity like you always tell us? How are you in losing the unwanted poundage in your bodies?
Dr. Claire: I have had periods in my life when I've had regular exercise --- but this period in my life is not one of them. I would love to swim regularly, but there aren't any pools anywhere near my house. Everything else is a no-no because I don't like to sweat and because anything that has to do with athletics makes me feel as graceful as a pregnant elephant.

JA: I don't exercise regularly. As a medical doctor, it's something I'm a little reluctant to actually admit. I have never set foot in a gym, and neither do I plan to in the future. I am already living such a tight schedule in my first year of residency and attending to other family and social obligations that this has been at the end of my set of priorities.

How about smoking? Do doctors smoke? Isn't that an amusing example of an oxymoron?
Dr. Gigi: I stopped smoking cold turkey 5 months ago, and I have not lit a stick ever since. I made the decision to drop the habit so that it will be less difficult for me to tell someone in the house that smoking will do more harm than good to his mechanically-impaired heart.

Dr. Claire: I don't smoke. I've never touched the stuff in my life, and I never plan to.

I was always teased being a couch potato. Being doctors, have you ever experienced being a couch potato?
Geekydoc: I got away with being a couch potato in early adulthood because I had little money and what little money I had, I used to buy books. I played sports when I could. I ate just enough to stave the hunger. Fast forward a decade later. I’m still a couch potato. I have more money but less time to read. What little free time I have, I spend sleeping or eating. Food, I’ve discovered, relieves stress.

Food relieves stress? What do doctors eat?
Pinay MegaMom: I still do eat sweets, drink wine, eat some fatty foods. My body needs a little bit of all of these, but in moderation. I have learned to ‘listen to my body’, by knowing when to stop when I am full, and not just because there’s still a piece of cake left or lechon at the buffet. [Pinay MegaMom also has an excellent 5-point program which you might want to emulate to change your BMI back to normal].

Dr. Ness: My word: Don't eat the oysters that are sold in the flat bottles. Best to eat the oysters direct from the shell (after it's been cooked), at least you know how clean your hands are! And don't eat the oysters on an empty stomach. I did that once and I vow never to do it again.

Oysters? Now, how about alcohol? Do you drink occasionally or are you on the verge of being termed an alcoholic?
Dr.Dorothy: .....more often than not, as long as I am not on duty, I am out --- on a "gimmick!" Of course, associated with that kind of lifestyle are the unhealthy activities that come with it – sleepless nights, drinking, smoking, drinking, eating fatty greasy food, and more drinking! (I was drinking alcohol like a fish! … Wednesdays in Greenbelt, Thursdays in Yaku, Fridays in Ponti and Saturdays in Capones! Haaaay. Those were the days…)

Can you tell us why as doctors you sometimes do not follow your own rules?
Bubbleman: In medical school I saw that doctors are not any different from the ordinary person. Having an M.D. does not place you on a moral high ground, nor does it enable you to preach.

Doc Louell: (just between you-and-me, ok?)I know a lot of diabetic internists who are still fond of pastries and a bunch of surgeons who can't seem to control their drinking spree.

That's it?!? You're saying that since you are no different from us, you can also commit the same mistakes? But you're all doctors! We look up to you as role-models. What can we learn from you?
Prudence,M.D.: My point is this: being able to follow one’s own preaching doesn’t necessarily mean that one is a better doctor. I think these all boil down to one word, CHOICES.

PDI: Now, the other big reason why we don't practice what we preach is that the medical profession is a TOXIC profession, the only profession that directly and mainly deals with something that is as sacred as life. I think it's life itself. Hehehe.

Bubbleman: If I'm not able to follow my own advice, I don't use the authoritative tone that we are expected to utilize in "educating" (or, more appropriately, scaring) our patients. I change into citation mode.

BoneMD: Sticking it out with "practicing what I preach" creates a "positive" impact on my patients and practice. But we all knew that, of course. In a provincial setting and in a community so keen on nitpicking physicians for their lifestyles, vices, and personal lives, I have to be on my toes always. Or I'll lose my job.

Dr. Em Dy: You all need to read the lessons under my Stress Management 101!

Martin Bautista, MD: If we should preach any particular message, it is that we neither live nor die for ourselves alone.

Joey MD: Maybe you should all try to take this "quiz" I made. It might help you decide what to do. Tell me what scores you got, ok?

Dr.Tes: Oh, give us a break!! Do we practice what we preach? I challenge you to tell me the answer yourselves by looking at these pictures.


Ok. Time is up! That concludes our blog rounds this week. I hope everyone now sees that doctors are human, too. We have our own set of flaws, and we get tempted too, as often as anyone else. Our medical degrees and licenses do not exempt us from "sinning." Far from it.

When we give our medical advice to patients to reform their unhealthy habits, we say that because we want to help them realize that there is an answer to THEIR ailments and there is a solution to THEIR medical problems. The keyword is "their," because as any well-meaning 'preacher' knows, it is easier to dish out great advice to other people. Following one's advice, however, is another story. Besides, doctors are sought not because we are paragons of healthy living (of course, we all wish we can be!), but because we are sworn to do so.

Listen to what we say, but don't do as we do....especially when you see us do the 'sinful' stuff.

Sure, we are old and knowledgeable enough to know that we should also avoid those dreadful trans-fats and that addictive nicotine. But like you, it is a challenge for us. Rather than look at this negatively, I think patients must realize that their doctors have their own share of demons. We also fight our battles. We get sick too, and we get afraid of injections and needles as we learned from Dr.Tes' hosting of TBR-4. It is my opinion that patients should never use their doctors' own bad habits as excuse for not following the 'healthy' orders prescribed to them.

Healing has always been a complex process. It is best to think that patients and doctors are learning from each other's interactions. We learn to empathize more with our patients' hardships and become more sympathetic of their plights. It helps us see the torment a patient undergoes when he/she tries to diet, to exercise, and to quit smoking. In the process, we want to learn more from each other and hope to end up both as winners in our quest to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Doctors learn a lot from their patients, and for this, we are always thankful.

Please tune in again next week for TBR-9: Mentors, Tormentors to be hosted by Pinay Megamom. Please check out the details here.

Thanks to all of those who participated here. It was an honor to host you all! I want to do this again in the future.

9 reactions:

Bone MD said...

Man, this plenary session must be pretty interesting. There wouldn't be enough time for the patient's questions!

I usually find myself in such situations during social gatherings where the only doctor in a room full of raucous blabbers (fueled by alcohol)is YOU. And you wish answers to their questions are just "yes" or "no".

Interesting posts from medbloggers and great job as usual Doc Emer! Thanks for hosting!

MD Bautista said...

Good job Doc Emer! Hope to meet you one of these days.

gigi said...

the honor is mine, dr. emer. thank you very much. interesting plenary session that was. :)

J.A. said...

Wow! It all sums it up! This is such a wondeful eyeopener for patients as well as fellow doctors.

MerryCherry, MD said...

I so don't know if my previous comment got through, but just in case it didn't...

Doc E, sorry for missing this one. Had some personal crisis.

By the way, I do practice healthy living, as much as I could. But I try not to preach.

Great hosting Doc. :)

dr tes said...

doc emer, im waiting for the raffle! and the mini-concert to begin. who's the guest artist?! and yes, the buffet too. the plenary took soooo long that my tummy is grumbling.

Joey said...

Great job, Doc Emer! I haven't gone through all the entries but this plenary session is awesome! :)

Got meloinks? said...

Great hosting, doc emer!!! Very interesting takes on the topic.

So in a nutshell: two things are so opposite each other.

1)Nobody's perfect; 2) the need to be perfect.

Both describe the human condition. (Say what? :-))

J.A. said...

Hi! Call to entries for TBR 11 is here!