Skip to main content

Rheumatology Valentine

My uncle is going through medical hell.  As a committed iatrophobic (fear of doctors), any mention of phlebotomy, tests, needles or a clinic visit evokes flop-sweat.  Since being slapped with a cancer diagnosis, he has overcome a lot, and much to my surprise has bravely done so.

When I asked how he has adapted so well to the medical onslaught he now leans into, his answer was quick and poignant, “my doctor! I found one who really gives a damn”.  And it's true. I’ve gone on visits and treatments with him, and his oncologist is the real deal; easy and friendly, honest and unrushed, quick with a laugh and plenty of hugs and shakes.

Being liked by your patients goes an awful long way, way beyond your ego-boost and job gratification. Positively inclined patients are more compliant, better managed and have more favorable outcomes.

The rheumatologist-loving patient probably evolved to such a state in one of two ways: 1) divine intervention and 2) trust engendered by your actions.  The latter takes time, attention and a special kind of doctor, qualities inherent in many rheumatologists.

Rheumatologists are unique.  I’ve written about this before, why we love being Rheums, why we are frequently ranked as the happiest of specialties.  About 10 years ago, I did a survey of rheumatologists about why they liked rheumatology.  Many said, practice of rheumatology allows them to be a super sleuth, internist and clinical immunologist.  But beyond this, many linked their satisfaction to touchy-feely, hand holding medicine, rooted in long-term relationships with patients.

Inherent in the skill are the many questions about “how are you doing”, the exams that take time and show your discipline and the face-to-face teaching that patients need.  Many of you write lists, to-do goals, numbers to call. Most rheumatologists I know give their cell phone numbers to some (maybe all) patients, and surprisingly, they rarely get called. That’s testimony of the patients respect for you and all you do for them.

Most rheumatologists proudly declare that, “Rheumatology is a wonderful life”.

So, congratulations for being a rheumatologist, a doctor “who gives a damn” and continues to go the extra mile for their patients. Doing simple things like:

  • Walking into the waiting room to talk to a patient or spouse.
  • Escorting them out of the exam room to check out.
  • Calling a week or two after a difficult visit to check in and check up
  • Telling the parent or spouse of a patient how impressed you are with the patients “will”

Rheumatologists are great people. This is why I love going to Rheum meetings and why my Valentine's Day is best spent going to the week long RWCS meeting, where I get to hone my craft with the peers, leaders role models I love.

Join The Discussion

Karen Kolba

| Feb 14, 2022 2:50 pm

Jack, thanks for the Valentine, and I couldn’t agree more. I loved being a rheumy from fellowship til retirement for all the reasons you mentioned. There is a magic to the Healing Power of Touch, and it flows in both directions. Spread the word to the med students!

If you are a health practitioner, you may to comment.

Due to the nature of these comment forums, only health practitioners are allowed to comment at this time.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject
Dr. Cush is the Executive Editor of and also Co-Edits the online textbook 
Dr. Cush's interests include medical education, novel drug development, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, drug safety, and Still's disease/autoinflammatory syndromes. He has published over 140 articles and 2 books in rheumatology.
He can be followed on twitter: @RheumNow