The doctor patient relationship is so very important. Having had doctors on both end of the spectrum, I know this to be true. After my first year with Dr. Cohen, I realized that all doctors were not equal and most importantly, you have to advocate for yourself. When a doctor does not feel right, then find someone who does.
Years ago when I had just starting to speak a woman told me that her daughter had just been diagnosed with HIV and the doctor told her she only had two years to live. This mother wanted to know what advice I had for she and her daughter. My response was matter of fact, "Get a new doctor." When your doctor only sees your illness and not the person with the illness the relationship is already at a disadvantage.
I remember a girl told me that her sister who was HIV positive kept complaining about low abdominal pain. After the usual "female" round of test the doctor dismissed the problem. Over and over she kept complaining and over and over the doctor kept dismissing her eventually suggesting that she was exaggerating. The woman finally found a new doctor who heard her loud and clear. When it was all said and done she had CMV of the uterus and death followed. They missed this diagnosis because CMV an AIDS related infection typically occurs in the eyes with people living with AIDS.
of the patient. Human should be any doctors starting point, not who they are or what they do for a living. I have a friend, a doctor who landed in the prestigious hospital where she practices. She was near death and it took three days for a doctor, in fact an intern to say, "Maybe what we are looking at is HIV/AIDS." They all looked at him like he was crazy, certainly not one of their doctors would have HIV. As the story was told to me he said, "Well did anyone test her?" Her t-cell count was 6.
No for me, I didn't really start getting quality care until I transitioned to AIDS. I landed at County Hospital with no health insurance with Dr. Mardge Cohen the founder of the Women and Children HIV Clinic. I've talked about her on my blog before. Even when my t-cell count was 8, I was a size 0 and HIV medication was mediocre she never told me that I was dying. I've said often that she fought for me when I couldn't fight for myself. When she retired I was lost, but only in my mind LOL because she made sure that I landed with a doctor who's values and knowledge was equal to hers. Dr. Audrey French has fought for me just as hard as Dr. Cohen in these last 9 years.
In October I had the pleasure and honor to be with Dr. Cohen as she was awarded the Humanism Award in medicine from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for her work in HIV. Not only was she the founder of the Women's and Children Clinic at Stroger Hospital (Cook County) she has an HIV/AIDS clinic in Rwanda.
Since retirement from county, she continues to run the Rwanda Clinic and practices a couple of days a week at the Boston Health Care For the Homeless.
She and Dr. French are also the lead investigators in the Women's Interagency HIV Study, the largest and longest running study looking at Women with HIV. Most of our understanding on Women and HIV has come from the WIHS study and I'm proud of both of them and proud to be a part of their legacy.
At the end of the day, your health depends on not only a good doctor but one who sees the human first and the illness follows. One who hears you and works on your behalf. This is your body and you have a right to have a voice. Any doctor that makes you feel less then, well I say they don't deserve to treat you. And don't tell me that it's easy for me to say being famous with HIV. I go to the Core Center in Chicago, which is where most people in the area are treated for HIV with no health insurance. In fact you couldn't get me to leave, well unless Dr. French retries then I'm lost again. So find you a doctor that is willing to be your partner in the treatment of your illness, whether it's HIV or a stomach ace.
Thank you to all the doctors who work to keep care in healthcare. And a special thanks to my doctors, Dr. Mardge Cohen and Dr. Audrey French who have been my primary care doctors. I must not forget my gynecologist who specializes in women with HIV, Dr. Helen Cejtin. She is also one of the investigator in the WIHS study. By the way, when my lower abdominal pain continued, she continued to search for the answer until she found it. For sure, I was blessed at the right time in my HIV infection with the best doctors and this has made the difference between life and death...