It seems that my best chance for hooking up with a physician will be a voodoo doctor. Let me share with you the pains I have taken to find an internist for my husband and myself.
Having reached that “woman of a certain age” mark, I don’t need an obstetrician or family medicine doctor; I like going to an internist. Seattle, as in many other locations in the U.S., has plenty of highly rated, board-certified physicians/internists to choose from. It’s not, then, a matter of finding a qualified physician; you can be selective enough to choose one based on geographic proximity to your home, their “bed-side” manner, if they are male or female, if they read the same books you do. Essentially, the criterion doesn’t have to be quality, since there’s plenty of that.
I figured things would be tougher in Mississippi, but I had no idea how difficult. Of course the first thing to do was locate the list of preferred providers for the health insurance coverage we have. That was easy as the info is all on-line. On first examination, the list of internists within a 10 mile radius of our home (Jackson) brought up about 100 internists. “This is great news!! Plenty of doctors to choose from. Now I just have to narrow this down. “
The website listing the doctors has tabs running across the top of the screen with these headings: Affiliations, Credentials, Recognitions, and Other Info. The website also indicates the medical school the physician attended, whether s/he has extended or weekend hours, and whether s/he is bilingual. I decided it would be good to have a board certified doctor, so I went to that tab only to find of the 100 internists, only 7 were board certified. “Well, that’s certainly one way to narrow a list,” I thought. Looking at the other tabs I also decided that we didn’t want someone who graduated from medical school in the 1970’s as they would probably be getting ready to retire. I also didn’t want someone who graduated in the 2000’s because maybe they needed more experience. That left 3 doctors. Then, I wanted someone affiliated with a particular hospital in the area and now I had 2 potential doctors who fit the criteria.
A flip of the coin determined the number one candidate of the two so I called that doctor’s office. The receptionist answered and I asked if this doctor was accepting new patients (the website had indicated that he was, but you never know). The receptionist said, “We don’t have a doctor here by that name.”
“Did he recently change offices, do you think?” I asked somewhat dismayed.
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of this doctor. Let me ask someone who’s been here longer.” She came back to the phone a few minutes later to inform me that none of the people she talked to had heard of this doctor.
Ok, according to the database he had a second office in a neighboring town. Maybe that’s where his main practice has moved. I called that number with the same results.
“Don’t worry,” I thought to myself. “I’ve got another name. All is not lost.” So, I called up the second doctor, a woman, only to find that this doctor was not practicing here and no one had heard of her.
At this point I became worried. I checked the date on the health insurance website from which I was gathering my info and it was copyrighted 2001-2009. I decided to shoot them an e-mail suggesting that the database needed to be updated and described what had happened. Then I played Word Twist on Facebook because this experience was just too frustrating.
Two days later I decided to try again. Returning to the health insurance website, I was amazed to see that the number of internists in my geographic area had decreased from over 100 to 37. That explained a lot about my previous attempt to find a doctor. So, I began my criteria rating based on this new list.
None of the 37 is board certified. (Are they not very ambitious? Don’t they want to rise to the top of their profession? Don’t they want to be considered “excellent” in their field?) Ok, scratch that as an item for comparison.
None of the 37 has either extended weekday hours or weekend hours. I guess no one gets sick after 5 p.m. or on weekends in Mississippi.
I don’t need the bilingual skill, which is good because though the category is there, the information for all 37 doctors is “unknown”.
A few of the physicians were not affiliated with any of the local hospitals, so I ruled them out. A few others were hooked up with a hospital I’m not familiar with, so this category helped me eliminate some of the doctors.
Finally, when and where they went to medical school is interesting, but only in the sense that 85% of them graduated from the University of Mississippi. Of the 15% who attended a different medical school, one of them was an island in the Caribbean and two were from Tufts University. I think this really means that after people go to medical school anywhere else in the country they don’t say to themselves, “I’m looking forward to a healthy practice in Mississippi.” It’s also likely that a significant number of med students who attended medical school in Mississippi go somewhere else to practice.
Seriously, though, as the state with the greatest number of people living below the poverty line, practicing medicine would not be terribly lucrative here. Even in the state’s capital, Jackson, it appears that a medical practice is not very appealing. Mississippi might even be comparable to the "rural medical practice" and we all know from news coverage that rural areas have a terrible time finding doctors willing to establish a practice in them. In other words, the doctor shortage has become a real thing for me in Mississippi, not an abstract or a news item from someplace else.
A scary thought…and that’s when my sister-in-law suggested I check into the voodoo doctors who are practicing down here. I actually did a Google search of voodoo doctors in Mississippi and you know what? There are several. Hmmm, am I willing to…could I really call…would you?