Physicians as Compulsives and Creatives


It’s been said that you’d rather have a doctor who’s thorough than brilliant.  The point isn’t that you don’t have to be smart to doctor, it’s just that when it comes to patient care, the compulsive attention to detail will get you further than genius.  This lockstep approach to health maintenance marked the industrial age physician.  We talked, walked, examined and dressed alike.  We were systematic, rigorous, and hierarchical.  It was all we knew.  We were the compulsives.

Surgeons have had their own cultural order.  I had a surgeon teacher in medical school who flaunted  the fact that surgeons ‘did things.’  Hot lights/cold steel for appendicitis.  It’s just how things are done.  Then came the idea that manipulation of the insides could be done through a tiny hole.  Someone had to jump ship and see things differently for that to happen.

Going forward the practical application of advancing technology will require a more open way of thinking about problems.  Of course the 20th century had its creatives and the 21st century will still need compulsives.  But there are diagnostic technologies and patient extenders who can help work the magic.

I just wonder if the next hundred years will call for something very different in a doctor.  Perhaps the future will call for a population of physicians who think and work less in lockstep and more as creators or makers.