How to be an Authentic Doctor #8: Ignore the Paparazzi


You are a doctor.  Your life is or is going to be filled with glamour.   At every turn you are going to be treated as a celebrity.  You will need to find ways to handle this.  You will also need to know how to handle the paparazzi.  Ask them politely not to take your picture.   Be respectful and keep your cool when they are constantly surrounding you and making you feel like an object.  It is tough living in the spotlight but you brought this upon yourself.    Remember?

Obviously, I am kidding.  It is nothing like that.  This is the life of Hollywood stars who help, well, no one.  You, on the other hand, are nobody.  The stuff you saw about doctors in movies or television shows were fantasies. The old days where you were given better tables at a restaurant or the utmost respect because they found out you were physician were myths or are gone.  Save someone on a plane trip and you may get a thank you.  The airlines themselves won’t give you a ticket or letter of gratitude (I have four examples between my partner and I proving this). The pendulum has swung the other way and we are now persona non grata.  That may or may not be a good thing for our egos.  And in troubling times, which is unfortunately now, it does feel like you are the dog that keeps getting beaten down.

This came from a friend of mine:

I was telling my medical assistant that I got into medicine in part because it looked glamorous. You know those med school brochures…a mahogany desk, a stethoscope sitting on it.  A textbook opened up, a Mont Blanc pen.  A crisp white coat with “Dr” emblazoned on it.  Well, glamorous it ain’t.  I just asked her to give me a hand lifting a 240 lb elderly person in a wheelchair who is known double incontinent. I was checking for decubitus ulcer.  When he stood up I was able to quickly drop his stool stained trousers only to find a huge turd in his draws.  And then decubitus ulcer showed it’s ugly face.  That was my first patient of the afternoon. I still can’t get the smell out of my nose.  It’s been twenty years and I still don’t have a mahogany desk or a Mont Blanc pen.

No, this job is not glamorous.  We need to get over it.  The world doesn’t treat us like they did in the old days.  We need to live with it.  There are no paparazzi or nice restaurant tables and the money doesn’t roll in.  Make peace with these facts right now because it is never coming back or maybe it never really was at all.   All you can hope for is Karma and that you get in life what you put into it.  You help a lot of people and hopefully you can focus on the good that you do versus the good you think you should get.   And maybe you should buy yourself that Mont Blanc pen already.



Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  10 comments for “How to be an Authentic Doctor #8: Ignore the Paparazzi

  1. Madelyn
    April 2, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Being identified = questions about medical issues. My friends and some family liked to introduce me as the doctor in the family. At a family reunion I had to spent time getting out of medical discussions. Than my great uncle get a racing heart and chest pain. Call 911? No get the doctor to say call 911. Most of people I know are very kind and help me get out of the spot light. I thank them.

    • VN
      April 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Well someone talk to me. I’d never ask, that’s what we have google and the like for. I’d rather beef about the admin and other policies that are pain in the rear regarding medicine. Or theory, but not “diagnose me on the sly”.

      Then EVERYBODY in the family knows your business.

  2. Michelle
    April 2, 2014 at 10:17 am

    My husband just got 15,000 miles added to his frequent flyer account for offering his medical expertise on a flight.

    • VN
      April 2, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Now that was nice. I agree, if they’re going to use your experience, a person should get the benefit.

  3. macf
    April 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

    And also do not forget that elite of physicians in academics. Whom while enjoying the benefits of grant money (in many cases from our taxes) and fattening their CVs, are able to hire other less privileged colleagues as “work horses” to do the dirty stuff.
    Physicians are not a single group or class.

  4. Bruce Stafford
    April 2, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Luckily when I went in to medicine at the age of 52 (began residency) I harbored no false hopes of ever becoming famous or getting rich. I went in to medicine to help people and that has met my expectations quite well. The thank yous and the small gifs have been quite rewarding enough. The Afghan one of my now deceased elderly ladies knitted for me is among my most prized posessions. Unfortunately it is a feature of human nature to want an element of recognition for our efforts. Some folks crave notariety for it’s own sake.

  5. V N
    April 1, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    I disagree on a piece of it. I know MD/MD couples who are millionaires. The other is that they have 1 to 2 kids and are very probably going into medicine, which 30% of med students are from a “medical family”. So they won’t be coming out with the debt that most are talking about. The parents are going to help them out. I’ve seen stats even by docs, yes they don’t make what they used to in certain areas, but it is still a good living.

  6. politovski
    April 1, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    anonymity is a good thing. being known and visible paints a target on your back, and there are many people gunning for us. identity thieves, lawyers, unscrupulous sales people (ever notice how everything medical is 4 times the price?), bankers, really anyone that we may meet. they see MD or DO and think $$$! cha-ching. so, my approach is that i go by my first name out in public, and there is nothing to indicate my being a physician on id’s, credit cards, or really anything on me. being a regular guy is sometimes better than being a target. my ego does not need massaging that much. and, i have tried mont blanc, and they are ok, but it is nothing exceptional. I like my lamy much better….as for the desk, too expensive for something that used diet coke cans and paperwork sit on.

  7. Ray
    April 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks Doug, I bought the Mont Blanc pen and and the lifestyle along with the student loan debt over 250,0000. I was shooting for Marcus Welby, MD , Sir William Osler, MD or possibly Archie Graham, MD. “Don’t wink kid!”. I winked and got hit with the fastball in the eye. I feel the job is a noble calling….but our profession/specialty has lost a little movement on our fastball. Are we family doctors the only ones who appreciate what we do? Are we dinosaurs to a health care climate that has made our skills and value extinct? Politically we are inept..that is obvious. Does primary care have a role in the future of American health care or are we unable to hit the curveball? Our batting average sucks and we can expect a high heater around the eyes from the powers that be (i.e.. administration). Time to lay down a bunt. Go Sox!

  8. Pat
    April 1, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Well said !

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