Monthly Archives: May 2019

Stop the Stigma of Mental and Chronic Illness

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I’m a doctor. I have mental illness and chronic illnesses.  I am not ashamed.

It’s taken me years to get to the point in my life where I can say that and not feel shame. Where I can state it as fact and not apologize for it. 

The healthcare industry, and for that matter our society, is a wealth of contradictions. One of them being that healthcare professionals themselves are not allowed to be ill. How many times have you been sick and come in to work anyway? You know that if you call in sick, there is little chance for anyone to replace you, and that your whole team will have to work understaffed. If you are an independent doc, there is no one at all to back you up, and so your patients are forced to reschedule or go to the ER. 

Long term, chronic illness is meant to be buried away and hidden. We tell our patients that they should be open with us, that there is no shame in having an illness, but would we do the same for our colleagues? For as much as our healthcare systems have recently been on the wellness bandwagon, how many of them provide the day to day support for chronic illness? We are good at banding together in acute emergencies, but what about those long lasting issues that will be present for years or even a lifetime? 

Why can’t we acknowledge that we are human beings first? People are fallible, people get sick. It is not a personal failure, it is a fact of life. 

In the last few years, I have found the strength to acknowledge my health issues. Via social media by talking about it openly at work and home, I have admitted that I am in fact not an endless source of physical and mental well-being. I have bad days. I have migraines. I have chronic pain. I have anxiety and panic attacks. Conventional wisdom would tell you that this makes me weak. That it is somehow a failing of my own that I have these issues. That I should keep it to myself. 

But why? I am still the same person. I am still the same physician. Having chronic illness does not make me any less of a doctor. In fact, it’s made me have more empathy and be able to talk and connect with my patients on a real and intimate level. So let’s stand up for ourselves not just as medical providers, but as people. Let stop the stigma of mental illness and chronic illness, for everyone. 

Support Abortion Providers

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I am a family practice trained Hospitalist physician now, but there was a time in my medical residency when I briefly worked at the abortion clinic in my city of Dayton, OH. I was already strongly pro-abortion before, but that experience cemented it for me. That clinic and others like it provide 100% necessary medical care to women. Women who had found birth defects incompatible with life, women who were raped, teenagers who stupidly knew little of how to protect themselves from pregnancy, women pressured by their partners to not use birth control, and women who just didn’t want a child. Women who were religious and sobbed in agony afterwards because they thought they were murdering their child, and women who had the understanding that an embryo or fetus is merely a clump of cells that has no life or meaning outside of its protected environment in the womb. I have also been on the other side, and seen children killed by abuse, children suffering neglect or placed into foster care, and children living with severe birth defects or chronic diseases. I came to realize that every woman has an abortion for a different reason, and that every single one of those reasons is valid.

After that rotation, I came very close to changing my focus and becoming an abortion provider. This had always been at the back of my mind, but in the end, I was too scared. Would I lose family and friends? Would I get constant death threats? What if the irrational protestors attacked me or my family? Would I even be able to find a job with abortion clinics closing all over the country? If I ever wanted to practice a different type of medicine, would I be able to or would I be blackballed? I didn’t have the grit to commit myself to such a risky practice. I still think about it, now more-so than ever. Abortion is a fundamental right of being a woman in America. A right we have fought and even died for over the years. In Dayton, OH right now, the only abortion clinic is going to be forced to close its doors any day now. Not just because the Ohio “heartbeat law” bans abortion after six weeks, but because the clinic has lost a case in court to remain open. The two major health systems in town, one of which I work for, have refused to provide transfer agreements with the clinic. This means that even though the abortion providing physician is licensed and qualified, no hospital will deign to accept his patients if a complication arises. In light of this, the courts have ordered the clinic to close its doors. Abortion, and the women who need it, are under attack all over this nation. It is extremely heroic to choose to provide abortion care in this country, and I thank the providers who have been brave enough to offer this vital service to their patients. I hope that we all band together as healthcare providers to support the physicians on the front line of this contentious issue.

#abortionishealthcare

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