How to be an Authentic Doctor #19: Physician Friends

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No one understands what a physician has to go through in life like another physician.   Family and regular friends try but they cannot know. Throughout our academic careers, camaraderie was very important to us.   Even though getting into medical school was hard, we had friends in college and many of them helped because they were doing the same thing. In medical school, we had buddies trying to survive the brutalities of the rounds, the tests, the long hours, etc. with us.   In residency, though our group was smaller, we still had some close knit peers who were getting their butts kicked just like we were.  In all these settings was the opportunity to commiserate. Then reality hit and it was time to take a job.

I was lucky in that early in my career I had the opportunity to work with my best friend and fellow chief resident for 15 years. A few years later I had a couple of other partners come in to join us and the four of us had unbreakable bond of trust.   We were like the characters of Seinfeld.   Every day at lunch, without fail, we went for coffee at noon. We could say anything to each other. We mocked our looks, our misfortunes, and our misgivings.  See the bottom of this AP article written about me 10 years ago. But we also supported each other.   I didn’t realize how much this friendship and trust meant to me until I left Maine two years ago.

My first job away from my crew was in an urgent care job.   The staff was great and the facility was nice but the job sucked.   I was getting killed seeing up to 70 patients a day myself and the company couldn’t care less. After threatening to quit, I was given some help in the form of PAs and NPs. They were ver good but it wasn’t the same as the colleagues I had left behind. They were not my great friends.

Over the past year I have been working in primary care again helping out a local clinic because they have been a man down. Again, the staff is great and I at least have some medical colleagues who are in the trenches like I am but we have little time to breathe much less form a deep friendship. We don’t meet. We don’t go for coffee at noon. I don’t know them enough to trust them totally much less call them best friends.

I understand that everyone is different but I highly recommend you work with a friend. If that doesn’t happen then I hope you become great friends with your medical partners.   It makes life so much easier. To have a bitch session where you know you can’t get in trouble for what you say is immeasurable. I have now seen both sides of this equation, a job with great friends and a job without. Trust me, you want the former.

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] 

  4 comments for “How to be an Authentic Doctor #19: Physician Friends

  1. R Watkins
    June 2, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Great post that parallels my own experience. I’ve had the great good fortune to be in practice with a fellow resident/best friend for over two decades. We’re united in our commitment to enjoying our work, staying with paper charts, and holding the AAFP in complete and continuous contempt. If one of us packs up and walks out the door, the other won’t be far behind.

  2. Bridget Reidy
    June 2, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Very important. And another reason to cultivate comraderie is licensing and privileging authorities still assume it happens, and if you can’t get a letter of recommendation because your boss treated you like cogs in a wheel and you find out later your “partner” who you never knew are too dysfunctional to even take a few minutes to say there was nothing wrong with you, professionals who have a hard time believing that some could be so unprofessional will assume there was.

  3. DrHockey
    May 30, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Very nice AP article.
    I really really really miss PJ.

    • Doug Farrago
      May 30, 2014 at 9:55 am

      Me too!

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