The man we were called to consult was 43 years old. He was homeless, and due to prolonged lack of medical care a wound on his foot had developed into necrotizing fasciitis. This occurs when an opening in the skin becomes infected with a destructive bacteria that subsequently ‘eats’ down to the fascia and muscle, and if left untreated can be deadly. The surgeon I was following quickly evaluated the man and, with little explanation, told him that his leg would need to be amputated. The man refused, and after we removed as much infected tissue as we could, was sent to the hospital’s inpatient ward with strong antibiotics. The following day, we again consulted the man, and the surgeon again told him that the only option was amputation, with the only explanation being impending death. The man again refused surgical removal of his leg. I spent the next few weeks of my general surgery rotation checking in on him. Four weeks later, the man left the hospital. With his leg.
This is exactly the opposite type of care I have witnessed Dr. Michelow provide his patients. I am now in my fourth year of medical school, and I have witnessed hundreds of interactions between doctors and patients. I know a great doctor when I see one, and I believe Dr. Michelow is a great doctor, but allow me to explain what I mean by greatness.
Greatness can be achieved in any aspect of life, but I believe that greatness in the realm of medicine has two aspects; skill and humanity. Skill is acquired through practice and training, which I will not delve into here as Dr. Michelow’s experience and training speak for themselves and can be found on his website. Humanity, on the other hand, is something that I believe most physicians start their training with, but not all succeed in holding onto it. I believe the surgeon’s pitfall in the above story, failure to recognize the patient as a fellow human being, was a loss of humanity. However, Dr. Michelow has indeed held on to his, and will be a model for which I can refer to throughout my training. Let me provide you an example.
A woman in her late 50’s came into the office requesting botox and fillers for fine lines and other imperfections she thought she saw in herself. After a thorough discussion, Dr. Michelow softly recommended something I never expected to hear from a cosmetic surgeon; do nothing. The patient I could tell was thrown off guard, and echoed my own thoughts by saying “I’ve never had a cosmetic surgeon tell me I didn’t a treatment.” It was shining moment for medicine in my opinion, as the patient left seemingly happy and more confident in herself, and did so without any cosmetic treatment.
I will not be pursuing a career as a cosmetic surgeon, as my calling has been for pediatrics. But what I’ve learned is that compassion and humanity can be found in all corners of medicine, not the least of which include Dr. Michelow’s office at Contemporary Cosmetic Surgery.
Nathan McGraw OMS-IV
2LT, US Army