Doctor Direct

A New Old Medical Model

Story and Photo by Mike Turnlund

One day when I was about eight years old, I didn’t go to school because of an ache in my lower abdomen.

This greatly concerned my mother, as my older sister had experienced a suddenly burst appendix a few years earlier, and she wondered if it was a similar problem. She called the doctor . . . who came to our house. Yes, I can remember when doctors visited their patients at home. And I still vividly remember this doctor: short, heavyset, all business, but very kind. I don’t remember his face, but I remember he was white-haired and wore black trousers with a suit jacket and white shirt. Most memorable of all was his doctor’s bag: big, black, and full of interesting things.

He did what doctors still do today: poked, prodded, and tapped my body with his hands. Big, kind hands. He conversed with my mother in whispers and then disappeared. I never saw him again. Shortly thereafter, we moved to a new home.

It seems to me that the days when doctors were more personally connected to their patients are endangered. Patients’ visits now to doctors’ offices can be quick and preceded by a long wait. But it looks like northern Idaho might be one of the places at the cusp of a return to a time when doctors were more accessible and perhaps more personally involved with their patients. October was the one-year anniversary of a new medical model in Sandpoint, within the second-most-northerly county in Idaho’s panhandle region. This medical model, in comparison to the traditional insurance-centric version that prevails in the United States today, strikes me as a more relaxed and personal form of care.

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