The New Doctor

By Lynne C Fiscus MD, MPH, FAAP, FACP
September 23, 2020

May the wonder, honor, and privilege of caring for patients over time never cease to take my breath away.

I relocated last year to help lead the organization which operates the clinic where I learned primary care during residency training. I had last stepped foot in that clinic more than ten years earlier before moving halfway across the country first to join a vibrant primary care practice and then assume a variety of physician leadership roles which led to an inquiry about a position open at my old training grounds.

When I was recruited into my current position as Chief Value Officer, the job was described as a full time administrative role. I was clear from my first conversation with the recruiter that it was important to me to continue to practice medicine. For me it was a deal breaker. The pace of change and innovation impacting how we practice medicine are far too great and without a hand in clinical practice, I feared it would be too easy to lose sight of the tsunami facing front line clinicians. Beyond that, I simply love seeing patients. It is nearly always the best part of my week.

Thankfully, the organization agreed to modify the role to allow me to continue to practice clinically and I moved back to the home I had last known as a resident.

A surreal feeling came over me as I sat in my first afternoon in clinic back at the practice where I had fallen in love with primary care.

Mid-afternoon, I walked into see a young woman for a sports physical who usually sees another physician in the practice. Being back to school time, she needed the form tomorrow, so she was seeing me, “the new doctor”. The young woman was accompanied by her parents who looked very familiar to me. This feeling for me had become somewhat routine in the months since moving back as I ran into old colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances at the mall, at movie theaters, and in the grocery store and worked to place them in my memories.

I paused a minute into the visit and asked her parents, “I’m sorry, we know each other don’t we?” “Yes,” her dad answered, smiling, as he revealed a thick accent that was unmistakable to me. I then looked over at this girls’ mom and realized I knew her too. She suppressed a chuckle and said, “Yes, they told us we were seeing you, the new doctor. We heard your name and knew you weren’t a new doctor.”

The couple had moved to town as newlyweds. He was having trouble passing a physical for a new job. We worked together to get his health under control and he was able to get the job and I smiled, noting he was wearing a shirt from that employer at this visit. A few months later, his wife came to see me and we talked about challenges getting pregnant. We started some medications and she carried a child to term and they became the first couple to select me to be their newborn’s pediatrician.

I then turned my eyes to the young woman sitting in front of me and realized that this was the daughter that the three of us had celebrated all of those years ago before I moved away. The corners of my eyes moistened as we reminisced a bit. The young woman rolled her eyes as we talked about me knowing her as a baby and then we got on with her very grown up visit.

More than ten years later, instantly connected back to a family.

May the wonder, honor, and privilege of caring for patients over time never cease to take my breath away.



Lynne C Fiscus MD, MPH, FAAP, FACP
 President and Chief Executive Officer
University of North Carolina Physicians Network
Chair, Primary Care Improvement Collaborative, UNC Healthcare
2000 Perimeter Park Drive Suite 200
Morrisville, NC 27560

This article will appear in an upcoming issue of Physician Leadership Journal.


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