Meeting at Doc Hangar will help ‘restore’ connections
by E. Jeanne Kroeker, MD —
I stood just below The Lodge at Pebble Beach, watching the mist brighten as the sun rose over the buildings behind me. Off to my left were just over 200 breathtakingly perfect automobiles, shined and polished, perfectly shaped and smoothed, each looking better than it did on the day it was first purchased. For the next six hours, my husband and I wandered up and down the 18th fairway of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course, admiring the cars and searching for our favorite apprentice judge. Our son was assisting and learning from a team of judges assessing restored Le Mans race cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and we were observing and reveling in the experience.
Because I am not a car savant, there were many conversations at this event that I did not understand and an infinite number of terms that I could not define. Just when I thought I was starting to identify the hood ornaments of certain automobile manufacturers, I discovered that the ornaments and badges often changed over the decades, so identification became a bit more difficult.
Lots of cars had levers and knobs that baffled me. In the middle of the 1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom Riviera Town Car steering wheel are three levers labeled “Fast/Slow,” Early/Late” and “Weak/Strong.” They were beautifully designed but I had no idea what they controlled. With the help of Google, I learned that these ebony and chrome levers were for the throttle, spark and carburetors, respectively. The dialect of the car restoration world uses common English words (with a smattering of French, German and Italian) in such a different context that it is like a new language.
In medicine, we also use common English words (with a smattering of French, Latin and Greek) in a unique dialect that confuses those who do not work in health care. We use tools and terms that are completely foreign to our patients, either in context or in words. Because we are so familiar with these terms, it is easy to forget that they are not universally understood. We use words like cephalad, caudal, medial, exacerbate and endoscope, forgetting that our patients might not have a clue what we mean.
Unlike automobile restoration, our work as physicians can never fully restore our patients, mentally or physically. The human body inevitably deteriorates over time, accumulating physical and emotional wounds and defects that we simply cannot erase or adequately replace. Human replacement parts are either not feasible or never as perfect as the original. My daughter’s insulin pump that interfaces with her continuous glucose monitor will never fully match the perfection of a functioning pancreas. As physicians, knowing that we cannot fully restore what is damaged in a body, we consistently try to guide our patients to better lifestyle and healthful choices so that they accumulate as little damage and “fender rumpling” as possible.
As a car is restored, many specialists and skills are employed, and all of their work is important. In medicine, even if we can’t absolutely restore our shared patient, our many specialties work together to provide the best outcome. Our cooperative work is what contributes to the best outcome in every case.
However, our increasing physical separateness and the poor communication inherent in most EMR interactions make this cooperation more difficult. As we spend more of our professional time in either clinics or in hospitals/facilities, we miss out on opportunities for interaction that foster collaboration. We’ve lost the camaraderie and the inherent socialization of the doctors’ lounges.
The Medical Society is working to create new ways to come together and perhaps replace those lounges. MSSC meetings and events allow us to meet one another, put faces to names, create collaborative partnerships, and become colleagues and even friends. The evening of Dec. 6 is our annual membership meeting at the Doc Hangar just north of Eisenhower National Airport. Doc is a fabulous example of exquisite restoration work, like the cars at Pebble Beach. Over the course of 15 years, hundreds of volunteers worked to restore this plane to its original specifications and function. Skilled workers, military veterans, aviation industry retirees and employees, and multiple organizations all contributed to the successful transformation of Doc from an abandoned metal hulk (used for target practice in the Mojave Desert) to an airworthy, gleaming, fully restored 1945 Boeing B-29.
This fabulous example of restoration work will set the backdrop for our mingling and meeting, and I encourage you all to come admire this unique plane and enjoy a chance to gather with the physicians who make up your medical community.