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Choosing a Pediatrician (Part II of III)

The second practice I visited, I was given an actual appointment with the doctor I'd requested, at no charge. My friend, who also sees the same psychic chiropractor that I do, raved about this woman. The practice has a very thorough website and I'd liked what I'd read on her bio page, that she was a successful artist with an MFA who decided to switch careers in midlife and fought age-ism to get into Medical School. She has now been happily practicing pediatric medicine for 20 years.

Who doesn't respond to a hero narrative like that? I couldn't help but get a little teary.

I came to the office late on a Friday afternoon. Prospective patient meet-and-greets are scheduled at the end of the doctor's workday.

The waiting area is a busy, massive, open room with cushioned vinyl chairs in primary colors. Two large multi-doctor medical practices share the area, so I am confused at first as to which window to check in at. The people waiting look frazzled, a little undone. I wonder if it's safe for me to be sitting there, what with my supposedly lowered immune system in pregnancy.

My name is called and I'm ushered back through a chaotic warren of file cabinets full of multi-colored patient charts, nurses rushing this way and that, to the corner office of the man who founded this practice many decades ago. He's not there, but photographs of his children and grandchildren cover every inch of exposed wall, wherever there are notbookcases of files and medical tomes, a continuation of the hectic décor outside.

The office manager comes in and meets with me first. She's super nice, friendly, blonde, a grandmother but barely looks old enough (at least to an AMA mom like me). We chat for a while about my pregnancy, and what type of insurance I have. She tells me the practice has four locations and I-can't-remember-how-many doctors, many of whom work at multiple offices. There's a drop-in clinic for sick-child visits on Saturdays.

She explains that the doctor is running late but will be in as soon as she can. She hands me several pamphlets about the practice, including a few information sheets on "Positive Parenting," circumcision procedure types, and childproofing the home. She also gives me a flier for the monthly free brown-bag discussions led by the doctor I'm going to meet today — which I'm welcome to attend.

I meditate while I'm waiting. Outside the half-open door, I can hear the nurses and doctors working with patients. A young child is taking an eye test. He's worried about what he cannot read. The practitioner gently encourages him that everything is fine.

The doctor enters. Soft, curly, graying hair, kind face, a trio of slightly raggedy looking clip-on koalas on the stethoscope around her neck; despite her wandering eye which makes direct contact slightly awkward, I immediately feel calm.

We chat for a while. Knowing I am her last appointment, time feels luxuriously open. She describes her love for pediatrics, and her philosophy of practicing medicine.

"I don't bring in the big guns if a water pistol will suffice... My clients range from those who choose not to vaccinate to those who do the full course. I believe in vaccinations, but not necessarily on the timeline recommended by the APA..."

As an example of the balance I try to strike between western and alternative medicines in my own life, I recount for her my recent adventures with convincing my doctor to let me glucose-test at home, rather than doing the traditional 3-hour lab test. She compliments me on the way that I worked with my doctor, and explored my options. I feel immediately that this could be a doctor I could work with, not one that would be threatened or concerned when I asked questions or brought up alternative health philosophies.

But the chaos of the waiting room?

I asked her about it. "Fridays," she said. "People are always trying to get seen before the weekend."

Well, okay, I thought. But there will always be all those chairs, all those people, the two practices, the piles and piles of files, won't there? I didn't ask. Still had one more pediatrician to meet. Not so sure about those scruffy looking koalas either.

To be continued...

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