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I realized as soon as I finished medical school that it was unwise to broadcast the fact that now I was a doctor and therefore deserved special recognition. It may not be true that physicians pay more for services than non-physicians but it seemed true to me.
That is not the reason I have been reluctant to tell people what I did for a living, but it was part of it. Being a physician is a burden. That is the real doctor tax.
Since I retired, I have become the self-appointed mayor of my pickleball community. I try to learn everyone’s name and background. It is hard to do that without sharing my own background. I am reluctant to share because I know the potential burden.
When I first met Karen, the former movie star, it was obvious to me that she had significant lymphedema in one leg. Once she learned that I was a doctor, she told me about the treatments she was undergoing for venous incompetency in that leg. I told her it looked like lymphedema to me rather than dependent edema and asked her if she ever had pelvic radiation and had a recent CT scan of her pelvis. She answered Yes to both questions, but her life ventured into chaos very soon afterward as she developed catastrophic infections from the venous procedures.
Just the other day, my friend Raj, as we were sitting along the pickleball courts, hands me an X-ray report to read and asks, “This doesn’t look very good, does it?” His girlfriend has a pancreatic mass with liver metastasis.
The burden of being a doctor is that you are exposed to an infinite number of problems that you cannot solve. I gave Raj my copy of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and told him he needed to read it and decide if he wanted to share it with his girlfriend. That was the best I could do.Published in