Welcome to my first blog entry for bipolar-connection.com. The goal of this website is to provide individuals with bipolar disorder and their family members with a variety of resources to successfully live with this illness. My role on bipolar-connection.com is to provide readers with a psychiatrist’s opinion on current management and ongoing research and to provide answers to your questions about bipolar disorder.
As a patient or family member trying to find a clear diagnosis and treatment that’s both effective and tolerable, it’s easy to become discouraged. Added to the stress of the illness are complex insurance requirements and the difficulty of finding a psychiatrist. What many patients may not realize, however, is that their doctors are also becoming increasingly discouraged as well. Medicine is becoming a commodity, and the result has been a “race to the bottom” to see who can meet the standard of medical care for the lowest price. In this environment, it is common for patients to feel as if their needs are no longer the highest priority.
I’m fortunate to be somewhat sheltered from these realties by working in an academic environment at the Washington University School of Medicine. My responsibilities are primarily to conduct research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, but I also train residents and medical students, and provide patient care. One of the things I like best about my job is that I get to spend a lot of time with the participants in my clinical studies. Since I’m not beholden to an insurer is this situation, I can spend as much time as necessary to address the multitude of issues that arise during the course of diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder. One of my goals is to offer visitors to bipolar-connection.com with the same kind of non-pressured interaction that they might experience in one of my clinical trials.
A little bit about me . . .
I didn’t think of becoming a doctor until I spent a summer during college working with a cardiologist at the Oregon Health and Science University. I was surprised to learn that doctors didn’t have to see patients five minutes at a time all day long, but that they could teach, do research, see patients and work toward improving our health care system. My mentor summed up this perspective by telling me “Doctors are only limited by their own imagination and creativity.”
Assuming that I would become a cardiologist, I worked at the Oregon Health and Science University for a year after college. I then entered medical school at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. However, during medical school I decided to become a psychiatrist after realizing that:
1) psychiatric illnesses comprise some of the most painful human afflictions, eclipsing most other forms of suffering,
2) the stigma associated with mental illness often compounds this suffering, but fortunately,
3) effective treatments are available.
When I made this decision, I thought I was abandoning cardiology for psychiatry. Nevertheless, I entered my psychiatry residency confident that the world was more in need of another good psychiatrist rather than another good cardiologist. Now I realize that I never abandoned my interest in cardiology. Instead, I’ve incorporated my interest in cardiology into studying ways to improve the overall health of people with mental illnesses.
I believe that physicians in general, especially psychiatrists, must consider the entire person and the environment in which they live when treating an illness. This holistic approach recognizes that all elements of a system must be in balance for it to function efficiently. This is true whether the system is a single organ such as the brain, the entire person the brain resides in, or the family and society in which one lives.
However, the role of patients in today’s health care system is unclear. Overall, we have moved from a patriarchal model of medicine to a more patient-oriented model. However, patients are aware of another transition that has occurred in the health care system as the managed care model has thrived. Readers have probably experienced the feeling when seeing a physician that the less they complain, and the fewer questions they ask, the better.
Because of this phenomenon, another goal I have for my blog is to allow people to ask questions that they haven’t had a chance to ask of their own psychiatrists. Patients need to advocate for themselves at every doctor visit, and bipolar-connection.com offers readers the opportunity to become a part of a community focused on the challenges of living with bipolar disorder, and how to best obtain care from our health care system. While I can’t replace the management of a personal psychiatrist, I look forward to providing general information that will be helpful to many patients and family members.
In my role in this community, I will keep readers apprised of new developments in the management of bipolar disorder. I also encourage readers to submit questions they may have regarding the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder. If you have a question that you would like me to discuss, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Published On: May 24, 2006
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