Monday, September 20, 2010


OK, the verdict is in: my X-ray revealed I have a stress fracture in my foot. I was bracing for this news, so the good thing is that I didn't have a meltdown or an I-feel-sorry-for-me-because-the-chemo-leached-my-bones pity party.

I took it in stride, even though I take careful strides these days.

But, even with something as straightforward as a stress fracture, there is a lesson to be learned:

Make sure that the doctor you are setting an appointment to see is, indeed, the doctor that you are supposed to see.

I re-learned this lesson last week.

My wonderful primary care physician referred me to an orthopedic surgeon who, incidentally, no longer works on breaks in the feet. So I called her to get a referral to another orthopedic surgeon. She wasn't in the office, but another doctor whom I do not like said he'd handle the referral, so I figured, warily, that I'd give him a chance and let him refer me to the right specialist.

I called the office of the doctor he referred me to and was all set to make the appointment, when suddenly, THE question popped into my head: I asked the receptionist, "This doctor is an orthopedic surgeon, right?" And she stumbled over her words and said, "No, he's a foot doctor." I asked her to verify what this meant, and it turns out he is a podiatrist, NOT an orthopedic surgeon.

I have nothing against podiatrists, but in the case of my stress fracture, my primary care physician referred me to an orthopedic surgeon for a reason. I called her office back and complained. The receptionist said that if this other doctor referred me to a podiatrist, there must have been a good reason for it.

And I said, "Well, he's in no position to determine what kind of specialist is best for me. My PCP wanted me to see an orthopedic surgeon for a reason. Please have her call me at her earliest convenience because the doctor who referred me to a podiatrist doesn't know what is in my best interest, and therefore he is off the case."

The receptionist sounded shocked. My PCP called me back as soon as she could, and she is now trying to find the right orthopedic surgeon for me.

The whole medical run-around is even more cracked than a stress fracture, and we patients have to take a stand when appropriate. We all deserve the best medical care possible.

That's why it's important to ask the followup question of a lifetime: the one verifying that the doctor you are setting an appointment to see is, indeed, the doctor that you are supposed to see.

Do you have any of your own personal stories of getting referred to the wrong doctor? Please feel free to share them; I would like to hear about your experience.

This posting is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Calling the Shots: Coaching Your Way Through the Medical System. To obtain these excerpts regularly, please subscribe to this blog by clicking the orange subscribe button. I am a professional writer and have published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on my breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. I can be contacted at and


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