After my last blog on, shall we say, an uncomfortable topic, I thought to myself: “What the heck, you’re on a roll… keep it up.”
Not really. But the topic naturally shifts to a another doctor whose influence on me as a role model I brag about to this day. He was, to keep the subject of bowel function moving >sorry about that<, a proctologist.
As a young Family Practice Resident at Naval Regional Medical Center at the Charleston Naval Base in the early 80’s, I did a one month rotation with Dr. Leon Banov, a noble gentleman, a doctor among doctors. (In preparation for this blog I Googled him and confirmed my reminiscences of him not only as a great physician but a man of deep historical learning and culture and a respected Jewish scholar. Small wonder he remains today one of the more memorable characters in my personal story).
Dr. Banov was, perhaps, the kindest, most astute, most compassionate doctor and teacher of the art of “beside manner” that I have ever met. If I haven’t said this before in a previous blog, I must now tell you another term for “bedside manner” that I am fond of using. It’s that ability to make people feel better by just being with them. I would like to take credit now for coining the term: “therapeutic presence”. Dr. Banov had it.
Now think about the focus of his medical practice. Pretty distasteful and embarrassing, isn’t it? Folks are accustomed to talking about or at least hearing about about all kinds of medical problems all the time. It’s the stuff of cocktail party conversations: “Man, I had a tough time with that rotator cuff surgery….” “…back when I had my gallbladder out I was in and out of the hospital in 24 hours!…” “….my gynecologist says I need a hysterectomy…”
You’ll never hear someone say: “…my anus is inflamed all the time and I’m hurting so much and so depressed, I don’t feel like going on with life any more…”
These were Dr. Banov’s patients. They suffered in silence, solitude, and humiliation. And they were coming to him as their last resort. And he would be subjecting them to a history and physical exam that was intrusive, intimate, and would be embarrassing beyond belief to the average person (I am compelled here to spare you the details).
They left his office laughing.
They had hope. He had taken them through a process that they had both needed and dreaded with kindness and humor. Presented them with options. A treatment plan. A program for healing and recovery and a return to normalcy.
This was skill. This was art. This was doctoring at its finest. What I learned from him on that one month rotation as a Navy Lieutenant Medical Corps Family Practice Doctor I will never forget.
And I got an honorary jump in rank out of it, too.
At the completion of my month, Dr. Banov took me to his Rotary Club luncheon, and, as is the custom at such meetings, introduced me, his guest, to his fellow members.”This is young Dr. Kunz, who has been working with me for the last month. He came to me as a mere Lieutenant….. He is leaving as a “Rear” Admiral!”
>no groans, please<