Grandpa Pizzi would not be happy reading this blog—at least not until he understood the whole Internet thing. As an old-school general surgeon for over half a century in West Orange, NJ, he was staunchly against any physician promotion. He went through the roof when he saw the first physician advertisements in the newspaper! He believed that advertising was unprofessional and only used by the marginal doctors.
Grandpa always valued connecting with his patients. There were few meals that didn’t get interrupted because of patient calls or hospital emergencies. Patients came first above everything else. This commitment to patients was imprinted on me ever since I could walk. Not only is it in my genes—I’m a third generation physician—it is also in the type of physician I had the privilege of learning from. My grandfather instilled in me that medicine is not a job or even a profession… it is a calling.
I used to join my grandfather on house calls, tag along on emergencies at night, and make rounds with him on weekends. Most people were born in a hospital, I grew up in one. During morning rounds we would go from room to room and his patients would light up a little to see a young face. Looking back I wonder if I was brought in for the feel good factor. I never really knew what their illness was but I could get a gist from the conversations. Smells ranged from nauseating putrefaction of infected burns, to the acrid antiseptic that flowed from the IV cart. The nurses would fuss over me and Grandpa would reflexively play with my ear while he stood over me. I was always on my best behavior at the hospital.
Grandpa was a professional storyteller with multiple genres. Long after everyone else left the dinner table, he would share lessons with me as the two of us lingered over a cup of coffee. There were the unsolved mystery patients (reminiscent of an olden day House episode) and the days as a Navy surgeon in World War II. His patient chronicles included great saves, and a few regrets. He shared everything about medicine with me, and I drank deeply from his well of knowledge and life experiences. My adoration for this time with my grandfather, and for the many cups of coffee, continues to this day.
My own career as a physician began at the age of five with the job of “Pool Doctor” at our community swim club. I was the kid with the first aid kit and bandages. I would arrive at the scene of the injury, donning my yellow baseball cap inscribed with “Pool Doctor” in magic marker, to dispense the cleansing (and painful) pinkish-orange Merthiolate from a glass vial. Once the knee scrape or toe stub was disinfected, the closure began with an appropriate sized Band Aid. Nothing seemed to gross me out—in fact, the gorier the better.
I am one of the lucky few that knew my career path from childhood. I was going to become just like Grandpa. I consider myself even luckier still because I am one of the very precious few that actually followed the family tradition of medical practice and loved every step along the way. Several of my friends in medical school and during internship had followed their family tradition only to realize several years too late that it was not what they bargained for. I felt sorry for those colleagues.
I have often wondered why I was so blessed to have an instinctual pull to medicine, follow through on that pull and become a doctor, and somehow still maintain my love for it thirty years later. I believe it comes down to one simple yet powerful truth: I always loved to help people.
I know that I could have convinced Grandpa that writing this blog would be a good idea because it offers an opportunity for me to connect with my patients. I hope that this blog will help my patients better understand who I am and my evolution as a physician. I also hope it will provide a resource to my patients as they prepare themselves for the inevitable collapse of the modern American health-care system.
You are invited to join me on this blogging journey, and I encourage comments, criticisms, and questions along the way. And don’t worry, Grandpa, I will make sure this serves my patients above all else. Promise.