Physician Suicide – Another fallen comrade
I texted my friend last week to see how he was. No reply. His colleague in San Diego texted me saying that he was looking a bit stressed out. Later that week he walked off his job and on Friday I got word from the chief that he committed suicide.
Dr. S was a really delightful dude. He was around my age, early 40’s with 2 kids. Both were soccer players. His girl was his secret favorite and his office was always plastered with pics of his family.
I started at that place, in San Diego, in 2009 and he was one of the first docs I met. Super sweet, very patient and his patients absolutely loved this man.
I was the guy who’d be in an out of a room in less than 5 minutes but he would spend forever, always taking his time and going above and beyond.
Don’t get me wrong, he’d tell me about how tough it was to put in that kind of effort, yet he felt that he owed that to his patients.
He was my doctors
The PCP on my record was a ladder climber – kissing corporate ass to get more and more admin time. That was the nature of primary care in SoCal, toxic. My PCP wasn’t a bad doctor – just a bit slimy and in it to win it.
Dr. S was who I went to when I needed a doc.
I can only recall 5 times in my life when I truly felt medically helpless. One of my worst episodes was when I got this insane fucking headache at work.
I walked over to S’s office and started writhing around on his chair until he came out of a patient room. Anyway, he took good fucking care of me and that nightmare of a headache went away.
He was my friend
We worked together from 2009 until 2014. He knew me then as a flashy doctor, driving a Hummer, talking about who was dating, the places I was traveling to, the money I was spending.
This dude was a great fucking dancer, homeboy had some moves. At the work socials, him and his wife always broke it down something wicked.
Between shifts, we’d get sushi at that horrible sushi place next to our work. That place got condemned twice and it kept reopening – didn’t stop us.
We may have even enjoyed some sake’s on our lunch breaks before returning to work – I’m not at liberty to say for sure.
He was overworked
There is a thick irony to a doctor, dedicated to preserving health and life, taking their own life.
He didn’t work more than other docs, he was full-time at 1.0. But the amount of work he put in definitely was more than some of his colleagues. He cared a lot or maybe that’s how he escaped from the rest of his life.
Naturally, the administration always added more patients to the schedule, required more responsibility of the PCP’s, and rarely praised them for what went well. I have a soft-spot for PCP’s, it’s not all that glorious.
During our department meetings, he definitely was hardest hit and expressed it vocally, kindly when more work was about to be added on. I felt for him because he cared and he was a good doc.
Suicide in medicine
I’ve read much about doctors and suicide. I’m not sure if it’s all that different from one profession to the next but it’s the nature of medicine to feel a heavy sense of responsibility.
Fucking up on a customer’s car isn’t a big deal. You apologize, make it right and move on. Once, at my shop, we took a car out for a test drive after a lot of work, sadly forgot to test the breaks and smashed into a corner wall.
The owner’s car was cherry and so we apologized, got our insurance involved and fixed everything.
The last mistake I made in medicine resulted in that frail diabetic patient dying of sepsis. Another one resulted in death because I didn’t do a thorough exam. I can’t imagine how S would have felt if he ever made a mistake.
I can’t imagine how S would have felt if he ever made a mistake.
Maybe it’s the higher sense of responsibility in medicine, maybe it’s the bigger consequences of medical mistakes.
We had another doctor who committed suicide in that department, in that building, 5 years ago. And another PCP took his life maybe 3 years ago.
Medicine isn’t worth it
I knew him and I know the shit he was dealing with.
I am not blaming his job but the majority of his stress was because of the job and the week before leaving he had a notable encounter with the administration.
I know he wasn’t worried about money as much. He was a financially responsible dude. Had bought a sensible $600k home and though he drove a nice SUV, he wasn’t stretching himself out too thin financially.
Anything in excess can be detrimental. Feeling too responsible, trying to be a perfectionist, dancing to the tune of a medical group, and trying to appease the bosses.
Medicine isn’t a bad career, it’s just that it isn’t worth the personal sacrifice. It isn’t developing into a sustainable lifestyle job, if anything it’s regressing.
Primary care doctors are becoming med pushers and number crunchers and society is recognizing the ever decreasing efficacy of these physicians.
Cheers to You, S
His family will undoubtedly suffer for quite some time, his colleagues will be affected severely and his patients will have lost a caring and wonderful physician.
Cheers to you buddy! One for you, one for me. Glad that you ain’t suffering no more. Proud to have been your friend. Miss how easy it was to make you laugh and I miss your smiles. I’ll leave a seat for you at the bar…