Saturday, February 4, 2017

My baby's doctor is not a pediatrician

"Who is your baby's pediatrician?"

I was first asked this question 12 weeks into my pregnancy by my OB's intake nurse. I have since been asked it countless times - when I arrived at the hospital for my delivery, as we were leaving the hospital with our new baby, and then every time we have taken her to specialist appointments and hospital admissions over the last few months.

My response has been the same every time: "Our family doctor is..."

I don't think any of the people asking me this question intended any offense. I know that, for many people, "pediatrician" = "doctor who cares for children." And, yes, pediatricians are doctors who care for children.* But family doctors care for children, too. The automatic assumption that my baby's doctor is a pediatrician is part of the image problem that Family Medicine still has. It seems that most of the lay public - and, frankly, much of the larger medical community as well - still doesn't know who we are and what we are qualified to do as family physicians.

I've written about this issue before, but nothing has changed regarding our national specialty organizations' efforts in the last four years. Certainly there are many articulate and inspiring family physicians active on social media, but that channel reaches only a relatively small segment of both the medical community and the lay public.

The US will not achieve an accessible, high-functioning healthcare system that delivers equitable, high-quality care without Family Medicine as its foundation. If people don't know who we are and what we have to offer as a specialty, if people don't know that family physicians' patients live longer and better at less cost, how can we possibly be a part of the national conversation about healthcare?

Maybe each of us, as family physicians, needs to launch our own mini-public-relations campaign. First and foremost, our patients must know that we are family doctors (not just a "general practitioner" or a "PCP"). We need to get involved in local medical organizations and make sure primary care's voice is heard there. We need to share our passion for our specialty with anyone who will listen.

I will start by affirming that my baby has a family doctor.

* Pediatrics is a specialty with board certification and its own rigorous training. I suspect many pediatricians would take some offense at the assumption that any doctor who cares for children is automatically a pediatrician. For the record, I have nothing but the utmost respect for pediatricians.

1 comment:

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