Friday, August 20, 2010

The Best Doctor in Town

Dear George,

I’ve had three doctors in the past three years, and they just keep getting better and better. The first was Dr. Mordred. I actually started with him in the 1970s. He was young and enthusiastic, and we were told that he was at the cutting edge. Katja got along with him famously and learned everything about his children, wife, and his own medical history. I didn’t learn a single thing, but he did seem competent to me. He asked me once if I were suffering depression, but I said no, that’s just my normal character structure. Another time, when I complained about my weight, he asked me if I ate sweets. I said no, I never ate any sweets at all. Then I added that I did eat a pint of ice cream every day. Dr. Mordred asked if I didn’t think that ice cream was a sweet, and I said no, citing my father’s instruction that ice cream is a dairy product. In the last few years, when Dr. Mordred was probably in his eighties, he wasn’t quite as sharp. He’d have me make an appointment at least once every six months, and each time he would question me for forty-five minutes about my entire family history, writing things down in my voluminous case file. I was uncertain why he was getting the same detailed information every time, and I thought perhaps he was testing my memory. Later I speculated that his patients were mostly dead, and so he had a lot more time to give to me.

One day, completely out of the blue, I got a form letter saying that Dr. Mordred had retired to spend more time with his family and that I had a new doctor, Dr. Gipperling. I made an appointment soon after and went to see him. He was about forty years younger than Dr. Mordred and presumably more cutting edge. Instead of a pencil and pad, he carried a laptop computer and, after we shook hands, he spent the next ten minutes reading information on the computer. He did comment that Dr. Mordred had kept very disorganized records. He asked absolutely nothing about me – no marriage, no job, no family history, no future plans, nothing. Maybe he had all the pertinent info in his laptop. He did take my blood pressure and listened to my heart and said I should come back in six months. I did have two or three more appointments with Gipperling, with most of our interaction mediated by the laptop computer. I would estimate that he spoke about 100 words in total, and I said about 150, all in response to his occasional questions. This might sound like criticism, but actually I got along excellently with Dr. Gipperling and much preferred my appointments with him, compared to the voluminous talking I’d had to do with Dr. Mordred.

After a year and a half I got another form letter from the medical practice. It was brief and simply said that Dr. Gipperling was no longer associated with the firm. I had been referred to Dr. Sweetpotatoes. The letter also mentioned that Dr. Sweetpotatoes had been identified as one of the top doctors in the region. This was pleasing, on the one hand, but also sort of intimidating. What would this top doctor be like? I usually get my blood checked every six months to check for side effects of medication, so I went in a month later for this purpose. The nurse called me two days later to say that my test results were just fine, so I didn’t need to talk to Dr. Sweetpotatoes. Later I needed a refill for my cholesterol pills. I called that in, and the nurse called back and said that Dr. Sweetpotatoes would send a new prescription, but there was no need to meet him at that time. A few months later I needed a blood pressure medication refill, and they took care of that by phone but didn’t mention my seeing the doctor. Finally, last week, I decided I would like to get a new sleeping pill prescription. I called that in, and the nurse said Dr. Sweetpotatoes would probably approve it, but he would call me if he had any questions. The next day I got a call from the pharmacy, saying that my prescription was ready. No questions needed.

The upshot of all this is that I just love Dr. Sweetpotatoes and understand why he’s regarded as one of the best doctors in town. In my mind, he’s probably the very best. In fact, part of me thinks there might not really be a Dr. Sweetpotatoes. Perhaps he’s just a fictional creation of the office staff who have found it profitable to fulfill every request that his patients make. Or maybe “Dr. Sweetpotatoes” is just an alias for Dr. Gipperling who didn’t really leave the practice after all, but just decided that he can no longer tolerate any kind of face to face contact with his patients. Whatever the case, I can’t remember ever being so pleased with a doctor. Dr. Sweetpotatoes and I get along so well that I doubt if I’ll ever need to meet him till I’m lying on my deathbed (and maybe not even then).



G-Mail Comments

-Phyllis SS (8-23): Really? A Dr. Sweetpotatoes?

-JML (8-23): Am I gonna have to come up there and accompany you guys to actual doctor appointments. Geez!

-Gayle CL (8-22): Hi. Very good... And .. I missed seeing u at the was so great to everyone . The wedding was perfect Chris and Karrie were perfect.... U and ur family were in my heart. And. Peter was totally there in spirit. So was Steven and ll see the pix soon.. I'll send u some soon... Keep writing.. Lots of love. G

-Jennifer M (8-21): Very funny entry. Except for the part that I think that Dr. Sweetpotatoes ought to meet you and talk to you sometime! :-)

-Donna D (8-21): love your choice of names...this sweetpotatoe doc is definitely your kind of doc!


  1. Am I gonna have to come up there and accompany you guys to actual doctor appointments. Geez!

  2. Too funny. I think everyone may have one of those doctors at some time or another in their lives. Great story!