By Dr. Hanan Hussein
A story originally attributed to the Indian subcontinent involves a group of blind men who are asked to examine an elephant and report what they find. Each one feels a different part, the tusk, the tail, the legs, etc. Afterward, these men come together to discuss what they were able to ascertain and find they are in complete disagreement. There are many ways this story has been interpreted. The connection for the sake of this article is not to compare specialists to “blind men,” rather to illustrate the importance of having one who can see the whole and not just the parts.
Most medical specialties today have arisen due to the rapid advances in medical science and technology. This rapid specialization has brought about tremendous opportunity for the treatment of and recovery from a wide range of medical problems. There is certainly a time and a place for a medical specialist (radiologist, oncologist, podiatrist, endocrinologist, psychiatrist, etc.). Each of these physicians takes a narrow and specialized view of the problem they treat, often appropriately. The challenge is to access these specialized treatments at the right point in care.
Family medicine was formally recognized as a discipline in the United States in 1969 (aafp.org) and was the first specialization to be based on a philosophy of care and not due to an advance in medical technology. Family doctors are trained to see the whole picture and how each of the parts fit together and complement each other. They stand with patients from “cradle to grave” and help guide and treat individuals and families through each of the important stages of life and development, through aging and end of life care. Family physicians stand in a unique place to see not just the patient but his/her relationships, family, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellness.
If you haven’t established care with a family physician and have found it difficult to navigate the complex and often challenging landscape of specialized medicine, I invite you to meet with me and start your journey toward better health together.