Every day brave souls sit before me and courageously take a big step on their health journey. I feel very blessed to be able to hear of their challenges and triumphs coupled with their willingness to get to the bottom of what ails them. It’s truly inspiring.
My mentors have shared a number of impactful lessons with me over the years which continue to ring true today. One lesson learned is that the most important thing you can tell me is your story. There is no greater insight into your health than what you share about your own experience – timeline of events, how it feels to live in your body, your suspicions about what is happening and why. This is always the best information I receive from patients. Even if you think it’s silly, embarrassing, TMI, or too small a detail, I promise you that it’s always relevant. It’s my job to determine how relevant it is to what’s happening now and where it fits into the whole picture.
Another factor that underlines the importance of the story is that you are not separate from your circumstances. Nor your relationships, your stress, your job, your food intake, nor your other body parts for that matter. As detail-oriented as we can get in medicine, we always have to zoom back out again to look at how the part is connected to the whole. Three different people experiencing headaches can each have a different cause relative to individual situations i.e. one due to muscular tension from job stress, the second from trauma to the head during a sport, the third from sinus pressure with allergies. As you might imagine with such varied causes, each requires a different treatment to resolve the headache.
The truth is that no test, no checklist, no physical exam can replace a thorough medical history in determining the cause of a condition. When the story is taken directly from the patient, obtained through attentive listening and active questioning, it helps to guide next steps as well. The history provides an understanding of what organ systems are involved, what areas to physically examine, which lab tests to order, how the health concerns started and evolved, the best first steps in treatment, and the long-term plan.
Medicine is individualized and there is no better understanding you can provide me with than how your symptoms came to be from your perspective. In my office your voice is valued, your story is the most important thing and I will always listen to you.