Just call me Dr. Philangelus

Back when I had Kiddo#1, I liked reading medical-type documents even though I’ve never worked in medicine. I’d learned from my mother not to just accept a doctor’s word for things and (unfortunately) my experience with doctors had borne out that most often they did what was best for the system rather than best for me or my baby.

My Patient Husband came with me to K1’s first checkup, and the doctor came into the room all smiles. As she examined the baby, she said out loud everything she was noting or not noting. I asked a couple of questions, and she gave some highly technical answers.

I was impressed. Very impressed. My experience with other doctors had led me to believe I’d get a pat on the hand and “Oh, sweetie, don’t you worry about that.”

The doctor left the room for a few minutes, and my Patient Husband looked through the chart she’d left behind.

Later, my Patient Husband said, “Do you know you have a PhD in molecular biology?”

I shot back, “Yeah, it goes really well with my doctorate in chemical engineering.”

He said, “In his chart, it says you have a PhD in molecular biology.”

All of a sudden it made sense: it made sense why the doctor had addressed all her technical explanations to me, why she’d narrated her examination, why she’d upped the complexity of the things she was talking about. Because I wasn’t a regular human: suddenly, I was a peer.

As to how that happened — it does sound like something I’d say, something I might shoot off if a nurse were treating me like an idiot (of which, I’m sad to report, there were many surrounding that birth.)  “Yeah, well, having  a PhD in molecular biology, I already kind of knew he needed to be fed.” If you’ve ever met me, you know I have a perfect deadpan.

In the defensive-medicine environment, the nurse dutifully wrote it down, and suddenly a doctor is treating a mom with respect, in direct opposition to how I’d been treated by every other medical professional to that point. (“Oh, you’re just a first time mom. Don’t worry yourself.” Followed a few hours later by, “Oh, you know, he DOES have a problem, and he’s going to have to be in the NICU for a few days.”) And eventually we did have to leave that medical practice because the culture of treating the mother like an inconvenient accessory to the child was just too pervasive, even if you have a PhD in molecular biology.

This isn’t really a funny story, not in the overall. I’ve since then made it a point to research things ahead of time and talk the doctors’ language. I’ve discovered that if you set the bar of the conversation very high, often they’ll meet you where they think you are. That’s the most important thing I learned from getting my PhD.


  1. Ana

    You go, girl!

    1. philangelus

      Most of my relatives would follow that up with “Go as far as you can, and hurry up about it.” 😉

  2. loriendil

    Jane, I ***love*** you!!!

    1. philangelus

      I love you too. 🙂 You taught me to make tea, remember? 🙂

  3. Monica

    I’ll file this with my other favorite Lebak stories!

    1. philangelus

      I didn’t really have anything to do with this one. I wish I’d thought about lying about my profession, but it just seems to have been serendipity.

  4. MysteryNurse

    I definitely get treated differently by doctors and nurses when they find out I’m an RN. Sometimes with a new provider I like to wait a little while to tell them to see how they explain things when they don’t know I’m a nurse, because I think how much they dumb things down and skip over things says a lot about them. Someone must have put it in my chart at the ob’s office, though, because when I went in for an ultrasound a couple of weeks ago the tech knew. No more going undercover!

    1. philangelus

      LOL — that’s awesome. You’re no longer a “mystery” nurse. 🙂

      It’s a good trick since you have the medical background to REALLY know what you’re talking about. I just get to fake it.

      I had a computer scientist ask me last week if I was a computer scientist. No, I’m just fluent in Geek-speak. But it’s handy to be able to talk across different fields.

  5. Cricket

    Dad once explained to a non-communicative surgeon a condition similar to Mom’s, as it occurs in horses, which he learned from his brother the vet.

    I rarely have problems with doctors. Maybe my engineering background helps. We’re a stubborn breed, and believe that we can learn anything, given time. We ask for explanations, and if we can’t understand them, we ask more questions. We also know that we can’t replace years of med school with a few hours on the internet.

    Canadian doctors have a better reputation than American. They expect us to ask questions and be team members. If they disagree with the research I’ve done, they tell me what I missed, not just that I’m wrong.

    My kids are curious and intelligent. They ask good questions, and the doctors always give them good answers.

  6. diinzumo

    Was going to leave a long, “all about me, ” post, but in short, that snotty doctor attitude is another reason I don’t see doctors. I already feel terrifed; I don’t want to feel mentally deficient as well. And I’m not even a mom.

  7. Sarah

    I remember when my second daughter had a cold at about 5 months old, and her breathing started to sound somewhat rumbly. I really don’t like going to the doctor for little things, so I actually asked my MIL if she noticed the same thing to make sure it wasn’t my imagination, and when she did and it concerned her, too, I brought my daughter to the doctor.

    I was treated to the most condescension I’d ever experienced from a doctor. It was *awful*. I felt like the biggest idiot ever for bringing her in and wasting the doctor’s time, until finally, the doctor deigned to hold a stethoscope to her chest to show me it was nothing to worry about… and that was when she noticed the problem, too, and then got all worried about it herself. We went home with an inhaler. That memory has really stayed with me, though, and colored my doctor experiences from then on out.

  8. capt_cardor

    I have always believed that it should be required by law that doctors have to put on an Indian buffalo head dress and shake a rattle at you before giving advice. That way you might put it in the right perspective.

    Actually, in some cases the Indian Chief’s advice might be better.