Ross University Blog

DEAN'S VIEWPOINT: Examining the Physician-Patient Relationship and New Styles of Interaction

October 22, 2014

By Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Dean and Chancellor, Ross University School of Medicine

The style of interaction between a physician and his or her patient has been evolving over time, but like many aspects of our lives, the pace of change has increased tremendously in the digital age. The three classic models of the doctor-patient relationship were described in 1956 by Thomas S. Szasz, MD and Marc H. Hollender, MD.

  • In one style, the doctor is the authority figure, and the patient passively submits.
  • In the second, the doctor is more of a guide, with whom the patient cooperates.
  • The third style involves mutual participation with the doctor listening to the patient’s input. Medicine is moving toward this style, but all patients are different.

Doctors in the past were often the most educated people in their communities. But that’s no longer the case, and thus the authoritarian style doesn’t always work that well. Despite the desire for an egalitarian relationship, some people don’t want it in practice. They want to be told, “This is what you have.” They don’t want to hear, “I don’t know what caused your fainting spells.” 

The patient also wants to be heard. We have to encourage doctors to become good listeners, and to know that there is much they can learn from their patients. I did. 

There is a new style of physician-patient relationship today that is really the Internet version of what the French, in the 19th century, called Le Malade Au Petit Papier  The Malady of the Little Piece of Paper. That’s when patients came to a doctor’s visit with notes about what they think the problem is, based on what they might have heard from others or what they imagined. In the modern age, people may go online and research their symptoms and come up with their own diagnoses that they offer to their physicians. Or, they may see a prescription drug advertised on TV and feel that it would right for them, so they ask the physician for it, thereby dictating their treatment. We should recognize that people are striving for a laudable goal – learning how their bodies work in health and disease. As physicians, we need to take time to hear their thoughts. 

Every physician must find a style that he or she is comfortable with in relating to patients, and perhaps adapting it to the needs of different patients. We also need to be sensitive to what patients want in this relationship. Some may want us to be their friend which could reduce our effectiveness in being their doctor. When I was a young resident I characteristically introduced myself to patients as “Joe Flaherty” rather than “Dr. Flaherty.” I found most patients were uncomfortable with that and preferred Dr. Flaherty. I realized I was introducing my own intellectualized desire for egalitarianism rather than considering each patient’s unique needs.  

Maybe, when it comes to this most important relationship, one style does not fit all. 

Tags: Leadership

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Where Are These Five RUSM Graduates in Their Careers?

October 07, 2014

Neurology. Oncology. Surgery. Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) graduates are practicing worldwide in virtually every specialty, and each week brings us a mixture of excitement and pride as we hear word of our graduates’ career achievements. From Texas to Canada, here’s the latest on what’s happening with our graduates, as of the first week of October.

Leopoldo M. Basilico, MD, Class of 2010, has joined the staff of Maury Regional Medical Center, Columbia, Tennessee, as a hospital medicine physician. A specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics, Dr. Basilico completed his internship and his residency in internal medicine/pediatrics at the University of Illinois, Peoria.

Sacha De Souza, MD, Class of 2009, has taken a position with the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance in Alberta, Canada as a pediatrician. Before coming to Chatham-Kent, Dr. De Souza worked at University of Alberta, Stollery Children’s Hospital. She completed her residency training in pediatrics at the University at Buffalo, New York.

Armin Kamyab, MD, Class of 2008, has taken a post as general surgeon at Cox Monett Hospital, Monett, Missouri. Dr. Kamyab completed a transitional-year internship at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in 2009, and then completed a surgical residency at Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Michigan, in 2014.

Toby Yaltho, MD, Class of 2002, has taken a position with Methodist Sugar Land Neurology Associates in Texas. Dr. Yaltho completed an internship in internal medicine, a residency in neurology, and a fellowship in neurophysiology all at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He later completed a fellowship in movement disorders at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, followed by a second year at Baylor College of Medicine, also in Houston.

Eldad Bialecki, MD, Class of 1999, recently joined the staff of Esse Health Digestive Disease Specialists, Hazelwood, Missouri, where he will treat patients with abdominal and intestinal disease. Dr. Bialecki has expertise in colon cancer prevention and colonoscopy. His internal medicine residency training was at MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Bialecki is board-certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology. 


Tags: Alumni , Tennessee , Texas , Missouri , Canada

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