Wanda C. Gonsalves, MD
A few weeks ago, at our class reunion, I celebrated 30 years since my medical school graduation from the University of Kentucky. I looked forward to seeing old friends, but especially to seeing the three women who, along with me, my classmates called “the Medicare Maidens” because we had turned 30 years old before our graduation. We had studied together for 4 years, helping to keep each other in school.
There were the usual questions: “What are you doing now?” “When do you plan on retiring?” “Is that his second wife?” “Did you hear he/she passed away?”
Many of us reflected on how medicine had changed. Physician extenders were now an important part of our practices. Most of us had hired either physician assistants (PAs) or nurse practitioners. And of course, I commented how PAs were better-prepared to practice with physicians. We all felt we were working harder for less reimbursement. I complained that primary care physicians at the University of Kentucky were expected to see patients every 20 minutes, whether the patients were new or established. Some of my colleagues from other institutions had even shorter appointment visits. And everyone complained that the electronic medical record required more documentation than paper charts and consumed way too much of our time. Most of us were doing our documentation after work, because running from room to room left little time to complete our records. All but a few of us worked for a company, university, or medical specialty group.
Drs. Wanda and Gerald Gonsalves
A few days later things had settled down from the parties. I was visiting with friends and lunched at Keeneland to see the horse races, I began to reflect more about my own future and the changes in medicine. What would I do if I did retire? I knew that I would always want to make a difference in the lives that I touched. I thought about the students and the residents I precept in my clinic. I thought about the patients and the bond that I have with them
I firmly believe that physicians and other healthcare professionals have a social responsibility toward those whom they serve. Each time I’m with a learner, I try to emphasize our responsibility as medical professionals. That goal definitely becomes much harder when we’re running around “like chickens with our heads cut off” between each patient room, but the goal is still something we should keep in mind as role models to our learners. I can’t retire. I still have much to offer and to much more I’d like to accomplish.
Wanda C. Gonsalves is vice chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She also is a steering committee member of Smiles for Life, a national oral health curriculum. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and may not reflect AAPA policies.