Search for new doctor tries patient's patience

Search for new doctor tries patient's patience

by Mary Ellen Collins

When we moved to Boca last September, "find a doctor" ranked right behind "find a hairdresser" on my priority list. Sadly, Angie's List hadn't started rating doctors yet, so I went to our insurance company's doc-finder website. It turned up a reassuring 49 possibilities a mile from our house.

John and I like having the same doctor, and since he prefers a man and I don't care about gender, I begin by eliminating the 18 women on the list. Then I search for men who went to med schools in locations I either like or have lived in. The field narrows considerably.

I check graduation years, looking for guys who are older than wet behind the ears but younger than over the hill. That leaves eight possibilities until I start calling and find that every website listing that says "We're accepting new patients" links to a doctor's receptionist who says, "No, we're not."

I'm left with one 1965 graduate (unacceptable) who studied in Chicago (acceptable) and is taking new patients. I cross my fingers and take a leap. When I arrive for my physical to find an empty reception area, I'm clueless enough to think, "I won't have to wait!"

The doc is tall and beefy and doesn't seem senile. He greets me with, "Why are you here?"

"Because we just moved, and I need a new doctor."

He smirks. "So, you don't take any medication, right?"

I do, as a matter of fact — something he would know if he would bother to take a history.

I tell him about a minor condition I've had for years, and he says, "How d'ya know?" He scribbles some notes, condescends to answer my questions, listens to my heart and glances at several body parts. Fifteen minutes later, I'm outside on the phone with John.

"Cancel your appointment. This guy's a nightmare."

Back to the list. I re-veto the man who graduated the year I was born, and revisit one of the youngish ones. I call someone I know at the hospital, and she looks him up in the staff database.

"He's scary-looking. He has a unibrow," she says. I cross my fingers anyway, and leap again.

The youngish guy doesn't have a unibrow (must've had a bad photographer). And I miscalculated his age. He's 40-something — old enough to have been around the block, young enough to tap my history into a laptop he carries around. He's engaging, knowledgeable, reassuring and thorough, well worth the aggravation of the false start.

I can't wait to write an Angie's List review that will keep other naïve newcomers out of Dr. Jerk's empty waiting room. And although I'm tempted to keep Dr. Wonderful to myself, I'll submit a report and trust that karma will make sure there's always room for me in his appointment book.

Mary Ellen Collins and her husband, John, live in Boca Raton, Fla. When she's not grappling with the ups and downs of making a house a home, she reads, does yoga and worries about coming up with column ideas. E-mail her at


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