Saturday, July 17, 2010


I've been taking a lot of shelter lately in 1) my long white coat and 2) the fact that I can now call myself "Dr. JLlo".

You see, as the intern, you spend much of your time managing patients on 'the floor' who are either waiting for their operation or recovering post-op....and these patients have a lot of questions.

Fortunately, as a new doctor, I know a lot of stuff.

Unfortunately, most of the things I know are either irrelevant (all the enzymes involved in glycolysis), really irrelevant (how much detergent is left in our jug of Tide at home), or crazy (the entire dialogue of the 2000 Hollywood 'mega hit' Love & Basketball).

Thus, it is hard when patients and families look to me and want (need) answers that I don't have. My policy is to only say what I know and otherwise, defer defer defer. I spend a lot of time explaining the hierarchy of a teaching hospital, and how, as an intern, I have the least amount of experience and the least decision-making clout.

It is easier to say, "That decision is best left to Dr. So-and-so (the boss) because he has much more experience" than to say, "I have no idea." Really, though, these explanations go hand-in-hand.

I worry that patients will give up on me because I often can't answer their questions, but I'm realizing that they don't.... A lot of this has to do with the two things I mentioned at the beginning: the letters M.D. after my name and the white coat I wear. These are powerful symbols that earn new doctors trust and credibility in the eyes of our patients. They make up for our lack of practical knowledge. In these early weeks of my residency training, I feel lucky to have them -- and I hope to become continually more deserving of the authority they give me.

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