The following is an excerpt from
Best Health, a complete guide to taking care of your own health.
But My Doctor Says…
When I first graduated from chiropractic school, my mother would constantly remind
me of the importance of wearing my white doctor’s gown whenever I saw my patients.
Like most people, she views the gown as an important symbol, one that commands
respect and obedience. The problem that I had with her request was that I felt
awfully restricted and warm in a doctor’s gown. Whether I was doing an examination,
giving a treatment, or writing a report, I liked feeling light and free. Plus,
my idealism dictated that I would not borrow any strength or authority from a
doctor’s gown. If a patient wasn’t going to take me seriously because I didn’t
have a white lab jacket on, I felt that they could go elsewhere.
Many years have passed since my mother’s first request for me to wear a white
doctor’s gown while seeing patients. She used to mention it about once a month,
but lately, it has trickled down to about once a year, and only when she sees
that I am in a super good mood.
I’m genuinely sorry to my mother that I cannot fulfill her request. I love her
as much as anyone in this world, but to wear a white lab jacket goes against just
about everything that I believe in when it comes to health care.
Actually, rather than call what I do health care, it is more accurate to say that
I share health information based on my experiences and studies.
I am probably a lot like you. I value health. I love yummy food. I enjoy spending
time with family and friends. I wish I didn’t have to worry about making a living.
I have made some mistakes in the past that I regret. I have done some nice things
for others without expecting anything back.
The only big difference between you and me might be that I have spent most of
my adult life studying and testing various health ideas and principles with my
own body and with many others.
People are People
My wife will tell you how easily awestruck I get when I watch a professional contractor
on the home and garden network. One show that always catches my attention is called
Holmes on Homes. This Holmes fellow just amazes me with his building
expertise. If you haven’t seen the show, he can go through a house that is completely
messed up to its core, tear it down, and fix it from the inside-out, leaving a
magnificent finished product. I cannot count how many times I’ve thought to myself
or said out loud, “I wish I had his skills”, or “Now HE knows some useful stuff!”
I am so impressed with the way he talks about repairs around a house, not to mention
his truck full of tools, that if he ever told me about things I had to fix around
my house, I would probably whip out my check book without blinking. Lucky for
me, my wife would probably be by my side in such a situation to ask appropriate
questions so that we could really understand the realities of our house and whether
or not his recommendations made sense.
Well, just like I can get star-struck by Holmes on Homes, I think this is what
happens with a lot of people when it comes to their health and doctors. And the
stakes are clearly much higher when it comes to doctors. You can always rebuild
a home, but what do you do if you damage your health beyond repair?
Some Differences Between You and Doctors
As a general principle, I strive not to bash others. Probably because I don’t
like getting bashed myself. I hope that you understand that I am not trying to
bash doctors. I am only asking that you remember that doctors are people, just
like you. Actually, to be accurate, there are some significant differences between
you and many doctors. Here are a few:
In case you don’t know where I am headed
with all of this, I’ll get right to the point. When a doctor comes to a point
in his education and career where he begins to question if what he is doing is
really helping people, he is likely to have many strong reasons to ignore his
conscience and instead, to rationalize the benefits of his work. I mean, what
would you do if you had thousands of dollars of debt, a family and comfortable
lifestyle to support, the respect and admiration of strangers, and skills and
credentials that you could not easily transfer to another profession? If your
answer is that you would follow your conscience, no matter what the cost would
be to you and your family, I wish you had gone to medical school.
- Many doctors graduate from school
with over a hundred thousand dollars worth of debt
- Many doctors receive a tremendous amount of respect and admiration from
their families, friends, and people in their communities, just for being doctors
- Many doctors have more expensive lifestyles than the average person
- Many doctors have spent at least six years of their lives, devoting their
time, energy, and finances towards getting very specialized training that
wouldn’t serve them well in a different profession
- Many doctors are at much higher risk than you of getting sued for doing
something wrong at work
None of this is to say that there are no doctors out there who will put what’s
best for you first, ahead of everything else. Although such doctors exist, I am
sad to say that my experiences have shown me that these doctors are exceedingly
There are two basic approaches to most health problems. The first approach requires
very little work on your part. You take a pill or receive a treatment that is
aimed at taking away your pain or discomfort. The second approach requires a lot
more of you. You are taught what you can do with your food and lifestyle choices
to allow your body to heal naturally, and to help prevent reoccurrence of your
health problem. By far, most doctors use the first approach.
It is more profitable, it takes less time, and it is what many people want.
My Introduction to Clinical Practice
This is a good time to share a real life experience that I had early on in my
career. When I first graduated from school, I had to work as an exam doctor while
I waited to receive my license. A well-established chiropractor in the San Francisco
Bay Area paid me ten dollars an hour to do all initial patient examinations, mandatory
full spine x-rays on all new patients, and patient “education”. Rather than perform
initial exams using all of the history-taking and diagnostic skills that I learned
and practiced in school, this particular chiropractor insisted that my examination
be limited to about ten general health questions. Did the patient ever experience
muscle stiffness? Fatigue? Lower back pain? Headaches?
I can’t remember his full menu of questions, but the bottom line is that almost
every person who walked in the door would almost certainly have had to answer
"yes" to at least one of them. And of course, an answer of "yes" was my cue to
explain why that particular symptom was being caused by an area of the spine that
was pinching on a nerve, and that the best solution was a six month program of
chiropractic adjustments, three times a week, for $480.00 per month.
Not within your budget?
“No problem, the secretary will sign you up for our special payment plan.”
After going through this doctor’s routine for a day, I decided to toss the ten
questions aside and instead, to focus my examinations on what each patient’s chief
complaint was. I took a proper history, performed tests that I felt were relevant
to the problem at hand, and gave recommendations based on what I would have wanted
my mother to receive had it actually been my mother getting examined.
As you can guess, it wasn’t long before the chiropractor figured out that something
just wasn’t right in his shiny practice. Soon after, I was invited to his mansion
for a nice, home-cooked dinner with his wife. Over a bowl of lamb stew and the
best caesar salad that I had ever tasted, he explained to me that his approach
to chiropractic care had made him a net income of $300,000.00 his first year in
practice, and a net income of $500,000.00 every year since. He was in his tenth
year of practice. As we swung into dessert, he proceeded to tell me that someday,
I could do exactly what he was doing, if only I could “get stronger in philosophy.”
The funny thing about this experience is that I truly believe that he intended
to help me. He thought that the best thing for me was to learn how to establish
a practice that would allow for me to enjoy his lifestyle. Needless to say, I
lasted all of three months before moving on. You might be wondering how I lasted
that long. What can I say? I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt from my
education and I desperately needed his ten dollars an hour.
You might think that this particular chiropractor was just a bad apple, and that
most chiropractors have their patients’ best interests ahead of everything else.
I’m sad to tell you that my experiences indicate otherwise.
A good way to articulate my opinion on this is to ask you to consider the people
in your profession. It doesn’t matter what you do. You might be a teacher, a plumber,
a lawyer, a business executive, a waiter, a chef, a financial advisor, a salesperson,
or a secretary. Whatever you do for a living, take a moment to think about the
people who you know in your profession and ask yourself how many of them you would
trust to consistently do their best and what is right for your own child.
I can assure you that your answer to this question is the same answer that most
doctors would give about their colleagues.
A Good Doctor is a Good Teacher
Quite often, I have people call me, looking for a way to get better without using
the drugs that they have been prescribed by their doctors. As a general principle,
I ask these people to work with their doctors to see if they can use dietary and
lifestyle measures to gradually taper off of their medications. The most common
response to this suggestion is, “I could never tell my doctor that I consulted
with someone else about this and that I want to get off of my medication – he
would be very angry with me!”
If you feel this way about your doctor, I hope that you will come to the realization
that you deserve better. If a doctor becomes angry or defensive with any concern
or question that you have, you are headed in the wrong direction.
The word doctor comes from a Latin word that means educator, or teacher.
A good doctor is a good teacher. And a good teacher is one who works with you,
shares her knowledge and opinions, encourages you to think for yourself, and then
helps you make an informed decision for yourself. A good teacher doesn’t give
recommendations without explaining the reasons behind her recommendations. And
a good teacher most definitely doesn’t put personal gain before what is best for
If you’re thinking that my opinion about chiropractors does not apply to other
types of doctors like medical, naturopathic, and osteopathic doctors, I would
like to clarify that my experiences tell me that there are few differences in
the fundamental motivation and stresses with each of these professions. But don’t
take my word for it, ask someone who has retired from the type of health care
practice that you are wondering about. If you are curious about medical practice,
discuss this issue with a retired medical doctor. Or better yet, a retired nurse.
People who don’t fear losing their jobs for telling the truth about their professions
and colleagues are the ones you can really learn from.
Learn more about
Your Best Health