At the start of medical school, I received the diagnosis of a debilitating autoimmune illness. From there, I would eventually be taught most of my medical education, while being a patient in the hospital. I learned how to place difficult IVs, because my veins were difficult to access, and watched all the tricks used by my nurses on me. I learned the anatomy of the lower extremity as my surgeon went over the muscle groups, and described where he would go for my muscle biopsy.  I learned the pathophysiology of meningitis and the different culprits of the disease, as my infectious disease doctor described why I needed to be isolated until the cultures returned to prove that I had aseptic meningitis.

What I learned most, however, was the experience of being a patient. As I progressed through my years of medical school, residency, and beyond, I realized that often we, as doctors and health care providers, do not recognize that some of the most impactful aspects of our relationship with our patients also effect their lives and their health. We forget patients are not just diagnoses, but humans who come to you with fears, families, and individual needs, all within their own social context. For a provider, writing a prescription for a medication may be the right answer, but for the patient paying for and taking the medication at the frequency requested may be nearly impossible. For a patient, navigating the difficult insurance system is frustrating, but for providers it is simply having registration collect the necessary information.

What if you, the doctor, one day became the patient? What if the patient were educated to become a doctor? At FIX18, I was able to share my experience as both doctor and patient. In my talk, titled, “Through the Eyes of a Patient,” I describe 5 lessons doctors can walk away with to help them build a better rapport with their patients. A better rapport which leads to better compliance, better understanding, and the best health and quality of life for their patients.

It has not been an easy time being a patient. I was told time and time again what I would not be able to do. I’ve spent most of my adult life, and my entire career, proving my naysayers wrong. While my story is unique in that I am a doctor, it is also very common in that I am just like your patients.  This is an opportunity to hear from a patient what it is they wish they could teach their doctors.  My story is one of survival and triumph despite the hurdles of chronic illness.

Watch Dr. Smith’s FIX18 talk below:


References from talk:

Street, RL. How Clinician-patient communication contributes to health improvement: modeling pathways from talk to outcome, Patient Education Counseling; 2013: 92(3), 266-291.

Safeer, RS and Keenan, J. Health Literacy: The Gap Between Physicians and Patients, American Family Physician, 2005:72 (3), 463 – 468.

Elwyn,G, Frosch, D, Thompson, R, Joseph-Williams, N, Lloyd, A, Kindersley, P, Cording, E, Tomson, D, Dodd, C, Rollnick, S, Edwards, A, and Barry, M. Shared Decision Making: A Model for Clinical Practice, Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2012: 27, 1361 – 1367.

Awdish, R. (2017) In Shock: My journey from death to recovery and the redemptive owner of hope. New York, NY, St. Martin’s Press.