Ode to a Great Doctor 

The one thing I miss most about leaving the Bay Area was my caring East Bay doctor.

As a recently relocated resident of the North Bay, I feel obliged to share my sharpest loss at leaving beautiful California: not the weather, not Mt. Tam or the Pacific, not the diversity — but a wonderful East Bay doctor. I want to sing her praises so that others might be inspired to emulate her. Individual doctors will not turn around the healthcare crisis this country is in, but those rare individuals who truly dare to "first do no harm" deserve public acclaim.

I can't help but recall my first visit to the San Pablo office of Dr. Elizabeth Anthony. I waited about an hour to see her with much umbrage and was told by her secretary that "she spends a lot of time with her patients," which I absorbed with some doubt. Having a medical history that gave me more experience than I would have wished, I have developed a large amount of cynicism regarding the medical profession and more than one personal horror story. Admittedly, it is not all doctors' faults.

But her secretary was just stating a fact. Regardless of the changing politics of the practice of medicine, the thing I most appreciated about Anthony's help over the seven years she was my doctor was I felt she was there for me and would do her best for me, sacrificing her own time and relaxation to be of assistance were I to be in need. It seems like this would be an essential quality for a medical doctor, yet it is so rare today when compassion has been squeezed out of the new insurance-driven world that passes poorly for "healthcare." This new paradigm, healthcare-by-insurance-carrier, was not a hidden puppeteer pulling her strings to choose this or that protocol for my treatment. I am sure she made more than one professional choice to not dance to this other tune for her personal benefit over the well-being of her patients.

Anthony is not one to throw a pill at a problem, and I especially appreciate her care in not jumping on whatever new "fix" had just made the evening ads from the pharmaceutical industry. She was trusting and respectful of my (many) ideas and input, and all-sided in her approach to health, understanding — yet not blaming — the role our lifestyles can play in improving our lives.

I also remember being surprised, and pleased, when she first asked me "how my life was going." Anthony understands that health problems are part of a bigger picture, and I believe it is this method of refusing to reduce healthcare to eliminating symptoms that makes her the treasured physician she is. I remember her spending time with me when my mother was having serious pain management issues. This came up when she asked how I was — and the answer was "terrible." Rather than merely expressing her sympathies (which she did) and moving on to my health issues, which after all was "her job," she spent time discussing options for my mother and even recommended pain specialists who might be helpful.

Often her first suggestion, rather than a "magic bullet," was to discuss possible lifestyle changes or options other than the drugs with unknown track records and side effects. It wasn't that she always did what I considered right or never made a mistake — and I am a cranky, hard-nosed patient — but I knew I would not find a better expert with whom to collaborate regarding my health.

More than one specialist I was referred to by Dr. Elizabeth Anthony asked me what I thought of her: they had heard many patients sing her praises and were curious to learn about this doctor who was so loved.

It is not easy for a doctor to have these values shape their practice and lives. You are lucky to have her among you.


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