Do you remember family physicians who made house calls when you were sick? Do you remember not waiting endlessly in waiting rooms, only to be shuffled into one of a half of dozen examination rooms, only to wait endlessly again to see your doctor? Do you remember your doctor spending more than just a few minutes talking to you, devoting considerable time examining you, explaining your condition, and precisely giving you instructions on how to take care of your illness? Do you remember the family doctor who knew your medical history so you did not have to recount all of your ills and pains throughout eternity whenever you went to see him? Do you remember a doctor who was willing to prescribe medication over the phone, without necessitating an afternoon visit to his office, and expeditiously authorizing those required refills of your medications without you begging and pleading on the other end of the phone?
Do you remember when family physicians were considered just that: family! Yes, they were competent and knowledgeable, but they expressed a personable bedside manner as opposed to a strictly sterile and clinical demeanor. Let’s face it: our bodies are not objects. They are very personal to us. And although other professionals, like lawyers, need to convey a certain objectivity, doctors see and know all of us, even our most intimate and hidden aspects. It’s hard to reveal all of that stuff to an outsider, to one who is not regarded as a member of the family.
I remember when doctors were like family. In fact, our family physician for years in New Britain was Edmund Orbach. He was my grandfather’s doctor; my mother’s doctor; and my doctor until his retirement some decades ago. Dr. Orbach had escaped Nazi-occupied Austria in the mid 1930s and started a medical practice in New Britain, on the corner of West Main and Washington Streets. He was a little man with a thick German accent, with the bedside manner of the proverbial old-time family physician. He knew me since I was a baby, and would ask me questions about school and my homework; and would even urge me to pursue medicine as a career.
One never felt rushed during his examinations. He patiently addressed all of one’s questions, no matter how stupid they might appear in retrospect, since we did not feel obligated to hold back out of embarrassment because, after all, he was like a member of the family. And in detail without any rushing so that we would fully absorb what he was saying, he explained the course of treatment, unlike so many medical professionals today who are already anticipating the next patient in the adjacent examination room and don’t want to know too much about you, but shuffle you out of the office, preferring not to say too much about your condition, diagnosis, prognosis, or prescriptions.
Perhaps such is due to the litigious nature of our times. Maybe doctors are deathly afraid of saying anything that can be used against them in a court of law since so many people are sue crazy today. Whatever.
I recently met a doctor here in Berlin who reminds me of the physicians of yesteryears, possessing all of their courtesies and graces, reminiscent of the bedside maners of doctors of yore. He is very personable; he conveys a real genuine concern for the patient; he takes his time examining each patient; and he explains in great detail the course of his treatments without rushing each one out of the office. I am relieved to have found such a physician here in Berlin, Connecticut.
His name is Dr. Othman El-Alami. My wife first introduced me to Dr. El-Alami a couple of years ago since she had been raving about him for years to me. She thought him to be a very special doctor and trusted him. My wife is a cancer survivor of ten years, and knows everything there is to be known about doctors. Trusting her expertise in this important area, I decided to give him a try as my primary doctor, and now I am so very pleased to have made this wise decision.
What first impressed me about Dr. El-Alami was his courteous, warm manner. Unlike so many physicians that I have patronized in the past, I did not feel that I had to apologize for being ill and taking up his time. He displayed a genuine interest in my well-being and health. When was the last time you felt that way in a doctor’s office?
But what impressed me the most was his willingness to openly communicate his detailed diagnosis and prognosis of my condition without me drilling him like a prosecuting attorney. He takes his time, volunteering information unasked for but appreciated by me. For instance, suffering from a post-nasal drip that felt like the flow of the Mississippi River coursing down the back of my throat, he recommended covering my mouth and nose with a scarf so that the cold weather did not irritate my nasal passages. It was like mom reminding me to button up my coat and put on my earmuffs. I liked that.
Or upon noticing that I was adding pounds like the neighborhood hippo, he suggested that I refrain from more than one starch at dinner, refusing that tempting slice of fresh Italian bread from San Remo’s bakery. I am still struggling with that recommendation.
But what adds to that old-time feeling of a family doctor is the atmosphere of Dr. El-Alami’s office. Nadia, his wife, is always at the front desk. She is another familiar face who knows all of the patients and their medical history. It is reassuring to me that there is continuity of the medical team–in fact, a “family” team–unlike all those other medical offices where the staff is indulging in musical chairs and there is always a different face manning the front desk, having no clue at to who you are, and recording your visit without that glad-to-see-you-again greeting.
And if you are suffering from a medical problem, Nadia will get you an appointment on that day, if necessary. No suggestion of going to the emergency room if you cannot wait until next week or next month to see the doctor.
Yes, I am very pleased that I have found a doctor here in the town of Berlin to entrust my medical care. A doctor that I know is accessible, competent, pleasant, and personable, just as Dr. Edmund Orbach was to my grandfather, my mother, and me as a young man.
Thank you, Dr. El-Alami. I appreciate your genuine, kindly, family care.