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Whatever Happened to Personal Contact?

Not long ago, I attended a retirement party for a former colleague. He had been a surgeon for 43 years at a hospital where I was once chairman of surgery. A number of old friends and colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a long time were there. The event was so enjoyable that I said to the guest of honor, “This is a great party. You should retire more often.” Later that evening, my wife, who is noted for profound observations, remarked that it is too bad that we don’t see people in the same way anymore. She pointed out that although we interact electronically in so many ways, we aren’t as personally connected to many of our friends and acquaintances as we once were. That led to a discussion of the atmosphere permeating medicine today. Back in the day, physicians used to socialize more. In most hospitals, there were doctors’ dining rooms or designated tables in the cafeteria where a rolling group of docs from many disciplines would have lunch and chat about difficult cases, the hospital administration, politics, and many other topics. There’s no longer a need for such things since no one has time for lunch nowadays, and the hospitalist movement has succeeded in eliminating the primary care doctors from the hospital environment. I have been practicing at the same hospital for over three years and have never even met 95% of the local primary care docs. Something is lacking when you aren’t able to attach a face to a name. Are these are just the ramblings of an older doctor longing for “the good old...
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