The author is Kevin Schwarm, an anonymous donor who shared this story with him.
As a preface, I was never very good at biology. I don’t know why, did I not apply myself? Was I just too bored to care? I often remember memorizing baseball batting averages while sitting in the back row in biology. After a trying season and a letter grade which was a borderline failure, I asked my biology teacher for a recommendation for the next physical science course: anatomy and physiology (Structure & Function). The scorn on his face told the whole story; it read like this, “If you struggled in biology, the next run of science courses may put you under.” He displayed the demeanor of why would you put yourself through this when you weren't always mentally present in class. In other words, if you're bored in biology, the next courses might be more intellectually and attentively challenging so is this a good choice to continue on this path.
During my “know at all” youth, I appeared to have all the answers, especially from the point of view of being young and invisible and not a single ounce of worry about my own mortality. Little did I know that my aversion towards sciences in high school would add much confusion and complexity as I aged into an older adult with more health concerns. In retrospect, sciences were a foreign language to me, and just failed to apply myself. Sciences are hard enough without putting a mental block while enrolled.
I had my annual physical with my general practitioner (GP) very early in the year and it was indeed a successful visit. Dr. Kamisky told me to cut down on my glucose intake (regular reminder) and exercise a little more. He then said, “You need to shed a few more points.”(I know doctor, as I’m reminded every visit.) He also recommended that I get several moles on my back reviewed. I asked him if he could help me make this a “two for one” visit and he replied, “It’s not my specialty” and proceeded to recommend a highly rated dermatologist in the area.
A few months later, I was seen by the recommended dermatologist, Dr. Hill. She reviewed my current skin condition and everything looked good with those moles on my back. Come back in a year for an annual checkup. Dr. Hill scolded me assertively and reiterated the dangers of the sun, and if unavoidable, use the strongest SPF protection. She asked, “Is there anything else I could help you with?” and I calmly mentioned that I had a little ringing in my ear that would not go away. (Could the moles near my ear be related to the ringing sound?) I didn't hesitate to ask as I thought the question made sense. She smiled and said, “That’s not my specialty,” but recommended a well-known Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist in the area.
About six weeks later, I was able to visit an ENT specialist, Dr. Thomas, who examined my complaint of ear ringing but couldn’t see any actual cause. After he learned of my sensitive gag reflex, he said to call back if the ringing persists. He then asked, “Is there anything else I could help you with?” and I said matter of factly that my left knee started to ache quite intensely as I climbed the two flights of stairs on the way to your office. He smiled and said, “That’s not my specialty,” but knew of an orthopedic specialist who may be able to assist.
I was fortunate to get in to see Dr. Paul within 7 weeks, an orthopedic specialist in the area. Dr. Paul gave me some specific exercises to strengthen the left knee. He also said some lazy patients opt for the surgery in an attempt of taking the easier road. However, a patient’s myopia sometimes tricks them into thinking that no exercises are required – post-op patients, unfortunately, realize that exercise and physical therapy are required. He then crossed his arms using his clipboard as a shield and then asked me, “Is there anything else I could help you with?” I realized he had a “closed non-verbal cue” by crossing his arms and clipboard but I persisted, “My right ankle is a little tender, could you take a quick “look-see?” He replied, “That’s not my specialty” and recommended that I see Pam T., one of the most qualified physical therapists associated with his practice.
It took a lot of persistence and phone calls and follow-ups to get on the schedule with this new PT. Once we met, we clicked and after 4 visits, both my knees and ankle were feeling fine -- I was given certain exercises that I can do at home. As I was about to leave, the physical therapist asked, “Is there anything else I could help you with?” and I said that my gums sometimes bleed. I threw this thought to the wind, thinking to myself that having an issue with my knee could imbalance my body’s equilibrium. He smiled shyly and said, “That’s not my specialty,” but knew of a periodontal specialist who may be able to assist. As I left her office I wondered if she always wanted to be a PT named Pam T.? A destiny name sort of thing?.
One brief digression, whenever I see the word ‘therapist,’ I think of several Benny Hill TV episodes from 50 years ago where Benny actually extracted 'the' from 'therapist.' Once you see the different associations, there’s no going back to see this word in two separate spaces.
Moving on, I was able to see the recommended periodontal specialist sometime later and Jan C. put me on a program to mitigate my gum recession. Jan reminded me that an electric toothbrush and regular flossing were the keys to good periodontal health. She asked, “Is there anything else I could help you with?” and I complained about having a self-defeating attitude, especially as it applies to my lack of good and regular oral hygiene. She smiled and said, “That’s not my specialty,” but knew of a mental health provider who was very qualified to handle my condition.
I was connected to Steve Powell, the recommended mental health provider was able to set up a plan where I’d be in a better position to improve my periodontal health. This was quite helpful and I thanked him for his efforts. As I got home, I was struggling with being able to read all the paperwork this mental health provider provided me. I should have asked if they could help improve my focus while reading.
It's a moot point -- my annual physical was just a month away. When I arrived, there was one form I needed to update but unfortunately, I couldn't read the document. I casually mentioned to the staff, that besides any medical challenges, I may need to get the vision reviewed. At the end of the visit, Dr. Kamisky asked if there is anything else I need to mention here. I explained my reading issue and he said, "That's not my specialty," but then recommended both an optometrist or ophthalmologist (which I had no idea of the difference except for both terms beginning with 'Op.')
I felt compelled to write a story about the complexity of the American health complex and for someone who doesn't like to read, ensures that I continue to struggle with science and medicine. So this story, again, dripping in sarcasm, illustrates my challenges with understanding science and medicine and attempt to understand the point of seeing so many specialists for such minor little things on the body. I feel like a robot sometimes filling out new forms, something that could be done once and then shared by other providers but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'm a slow learner so it will take a while to connect the dots between which specialists do what things. Different specific ailments might require a specialist. Again, I'm learning the hard way -- I could have simply paid attention during the hard science courses but I took the more frustrating route. All I know is there are so many medical, physical and psychological doctors sometimes offering their special service plan. I don't remember so many visits to the doctor, there weren't so many specialists. Perhaps the fact that I rarely had any interfaces with doctors or hospitals while young may have in some way contributed to my lack of interest in the subject? It's a reach, but that's all I can come up with -- besides my pure stubbornness for much of my youth.