I had a pretty exciting blind date a few weeks ago. I found her online and liked her profile. In her picture she looked friendly and nice. She wasn't far from my house, and was relatively close to my age, so I figured we would have a lot in common. I was nervous when I was on my way to meet her but I was hopeful, which is something I haven’t felt in a long time. Then I met her — and I was right.
My new gastroenterologist (GI) is the perfect match for me!
I haven’t had a GI doctor in close to six years; I’ve just seen my surgeon, instead. Recently, though, there was a change in my health care, and my surgeon was no longer covered. I haven’t actually needed a surgeon in quite a few years, so I figured that while I’m in remission from ulcerative colitis (UC) and doing well, I should try to find a new GI.
I went through the painstaking process of finding a GI who worked with my insurance, who was located nearby, and who could actually see me within a reasonable timeframe. I found one who I thought was my best bet. I have to admit, I wasn’t super confident, as I’ve had terrible experiences. But I wasn’t in need of actual medical care, so I figured I was in the best position I could hope to be in.
On the way to my appointment, I realized how much meeting a new doctor felt like going on a blind date. As a seasoned patient, I know what I want in a doctor. I’m very educated about my health. I just kept thinking about how I needed a doctor who was on the same page as I am.
When I arrived, there were a few concerning signs. Things that made me feel like this “date” might not go well. I was concerned with an early interaction in the office concerning medical terminology, as well as having a long wait in the examination room. I was waiting just long enough to start thinking I got stood up — until I remembered I was at the doctor's office and she was probably just running a little late.
The door knob turned. The nervousness in this moment was equal to when you walk into a crowded restaurant and lock eyes with your date and have that little pep talk with yourself: “Okay, this is it. Don’t be weird. I hope he’s not weird. Smile, but not too much. You don’t want to look crazy.”
The door opened and a women walked in with a big smile on her face. I knew she wasn’t going to be weird, so I calmed down so I wasn’t the weird one.
_ Credit: Jackie Zimmerman_
Katie Sumnicht, D.O., introduced herself and asked why I was there if I wasn’t experiencing any issues. I explained that I had a complicated history with UC and terrible luck with GIs. Since I recently became doctorless, I decided to find a new doctor while I was healthy.
I had been to this practice before and saw another doctor, so I was surprised when Dr. Sumnicht explained that she didn’t see any of my history in her files. But I chalked this up to when your date makes an awkward joke that probably just came out wrong, so you give him the benefit of the doubt. I explained my history, my current health status, and then gave her a brief rundown about my life, hobbies, and future plans. So much like a date.
The best part of the appointment was when Dr. Sumnicht mentioned that she doesn’t often meet patients like me — meaning well-informed, motivated, and passionate about advocacy. At this point, I basically considered us BFFs because our conversation turned from medical histories to life in general.
When I mentioned that I’d like to add VSL#3 to my diet and I knew my insurance company wouldn’t cover it, and told her I needed someone who was willing to fight with them, she told me that it wasn’t a problem. She said something like, “I don’t mind sitting on hold.”
It was then that I fell in love with my new doctor!
I went into my appointment a total skeptic, but I left happy that I took a chance. There were a lot of things I considered before and during my meeting with her.
- Did my insurance company cover this doctor?
- How far from my house was the office?
- How long did I have to wait for an appointment?
The doctor herself
- Was she approachable?
- Was she knowledgeable?
- Did I feel like a person and not a medical disaster?
- Did she seem like she had an interest in me and my case, rather than just rushing through the appointment?
Maybe I’ve just gotten to a point in my UC treatment/care where I’m looking for a more relaxed doctor experience. I don’t want a doctor who wants to run 800 tests that I don’t feel like I need. On the other hand, I don’t want a doctor who won’t listen to me. Dr. Sumnicht’s office is close to where I live, her office is attached to a hospital, and I feel confident that she is on the same page as I am in regard to my future care.
In short, for me, she’s a perfect second date, i.e., follow-up doctor appointment.
If you’re looking for a new doctor you should consider what is most important to you. What are your top priorities? What are you willing to compromise on? How do you feel when you’re around the doctor? Are you being heard? If you’re not feeling a positive connection with a new doctor, don’t be afraid to “swipe left” and try a new one. There are plenty to choose from!
Overall, I think my new relationship with Dr. Sumnicht will be a good one. Although, I did break my own rule and was totally weird when I asked her to take a picture with me so I could put it on the internet. Maybe don't do that.
Jackie is an ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and Executive Director of Girls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has been blogging her IBD journey at Blood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community, and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page.