Monday, December 08, 2003

What's in a name?

I got the keys to my new office today. I guess I should say, our new office. I am sharing a 4 room suite with a psychologist (my landlord) and a chiropractor, who each have one room. I have 2 rooms. Two *small* rooms: a 9'7" x 9'5" exam room and a 8 x 8 foot windowless room, which will serve as my office.

The pedestal sink I bought was incompatible with the plumbing fixtures, so the landlord and I made a quick trip to Home Depot to buy a cabinet style sink which looks just fine. There are holes in many of the walls where a bunch of cabinets used to hold large quantities of pungent and bitter-smelling Chinese herbs. The landlord said that he and the chiropractor both lost patients because of the smell, so he is glad that I am moving in.

The landlord also kept telling me how busy the previous tenant, an acupuncturist, was. But he chose not to renew his year-long lease, instead going on a month to month lease. That was what enabled me to take his space, because the landlord wanted a tenant with a long-term commitment. I'll try not to make that mistake when my lease renewal is due. This is assuming my practice is a success.

What to do next? I have to get furniture for my tiny office, and chairs. Bookshelves. I don't know how I'm going to be able to fit everything in my office, since I would prefer not to leave anything out in the common area, at least nothing of significant worth. I know my wife wants to have some say in the color of paint, and wall decorations.

A major project will be ripping up the carpet in the exam room to lay linoleum tile. This is to allow for easier cleanup (and a more sanitary environment) just in case someone has an "accident". After all, besides being my own nurse, receptionist, biller, and office manager, I also will be my own custodian.

I also have to figure out how to fit a refrigerator/freezer in to store my vaccines.

And business cards. And newspaper ads. And business stationary.

The phone installer is coming between 8AM-5PM tomorrow. Talk about a "narrow window". Good thing I have the whole day off. And the cable installer is coming next week to hook me up for cable modem internet access (which I've found to be faster than DSL for home use; plus I hate the local phone company that provides DSL service).

A lot of things to juggle. As a family physician, I am used to that.

The landlord asked me how I wanted my name printed on the signs outside. "No middle initial?" he asked after I told him. No, I preferred a simpler identity. First name, last name. M.D. But then I wondered what to put after that. "Which sounds better? Family Practice or Family Physician?" I asked him and his wife.

I had recently read about the American Academy of Family Physicians voting to rename the specialty "family medicine" instead of "family practice" ; and "family physicians" instead of "family practictioners".

"While it may be semantics to some, perception is everything," Lindholm said. "I specialize in family medicine. If our own colleagues in medicine don't understand that we're specialists, I don't think our patients can (understand), either."

It is something all family physicians have to put up with, I think. Our patients don't know what kind of doctors we are. Many assume I am an internist, or a pediatrician (when I see a child), or a general practitioner. This mirrors the findings of focus groups questioned by the Future of Family Medicine Project, which found that a third of patients who saw a family physician didn't know their doctor was a family physician.

The landlord and his wife both thought "Family Practice" sounded more familiar to them, so I told them to put that after my name on the sign. But now that I think about it, I would rather be known as a family physician than a family practitioner. Time to think different, just like my solo practice model.

So tomorrow morning, i will call the landlord and tell him to put "Family Physician" after my name. Because that's what I am. And proud to be.

Countdown: 28 days until target start date