As a medical doctor with a background in the American medical system, I’m concerned by the level of care that patients receive and more informed of the constraints in the current medical system. I’ve left the traditional medical world to create something new because I want more for all of us as patients and more for myself as a professional. My guess is that you also experienced some of the setbacks of our current healthcare system, and that you want to find something that supports you in a more holistic way. This podcast is part of my mission to change healthcare for the better while helping all of us to return to the basics of good health.
In this episode, you’ll learn more about forming what I call “your own third opinion.” I want you to trust your instincts, and for you to become your own best advocate. This takes understanding the current system, knowing how to navigate it, and learning how to speak up for what you need in a way that gets better results.
I’m just as frustrated as you are about the system and the way it works. The pandemic shed light on how bad things were and how healthcare can become worse. You might jump to the conclusion that the healthcare system is broken and that we have to replace it. You’ll discover in this episode that the better thing to do is to discover what works well within it, what we can do to navigate through it, and how to find ways to bring in other systems.
In this episode, you’ll learn about:
- Creating your own third opinion
- My background as a doctor
- Why I’ve chosen to focus on educating rather than treating
- The events and people who have influenced how I practice medicine
- How my mother’s death changed how I understand medical care
- How to fix what is not working in healthcare
- A parable about what happens when we just look at one part of a larger ecosystem
It’s time to form your own third opinion.
I know you’re out there. I know you’ve experienced some pretty negative things with healthcare and you’re probably thinking, “Why would I listen to a doctor tell me something when I’ve never heard anything helpful?” There are some extremes like that. I know you’ve probably had good experiences, some of you; but for the most part, it’s not been pleasant.
I’m a second-generation physician; so, I’ll be the first to tell you I have high standards myself. My mother was a family physician and an acupuncturist as well, and she was amazing. She’s not here to be my guest, which that would be my number one dream to be able to speak with her. So, we’re going to talk about her a bit.
I have to say, I’m with you. I’m just as frustrated as you are about the system and the way it works. The pandemic has really shed light on how bad it is. Now, is it broken? There is one way you could say it is broken and we have to replace it, but I think that the better thing to do is to see what works well with it, see what we can do to navigate through it, and then bring in other systems.
You need to be your best advocate. There is no choice. Otherwise, the system will gobble you up.
Here is an example. My mother, who was a family physician and acupuncturist, had a practice for a little over 30 years, and then she had a diagnosis of brain cancer. It was locally aggressive, and it would come back over and over again. She had seven surgeries over a seven-year period.
I saw the way she was treated. It’s eye-opening when you have someone who was one of the early pioneers in family medicine. She was one of the first family physicians, and here she is in the hospital and I’m with her. And I see this arrogant neurosurgeon resident come in and he treats like dirt. I don’t care if my mom was a janitor, a CEO, a physician, or whatever. He shouldn’t be talking to my mom like that. So, I got really pissed off and I told him, “You shouldn’t be talking to her like that.” He just had that kind of shrug-the-shoulder response.
I’m thinking, “She worked all this time, and then she ends up retiring in the hospital.” She died when she was 62.
I don’t know about you, but you’ve got to know someone who has probably had cancer in their 60s or died even younger than that. That’s ridiculous. We’re supposed to be living up to 100, even 110, 120. What are we doing?! Our life expectancy is going down for the first time over the last three to four years. Our quality of life is terrible here! We don’t live well. We’ve forgotten the basics.
I want to show you the basics. That’s what I’ve found has restored my health to a place where I feel more vibrant. I’m on no medications, I eat well, I try to sleep well, and I try to feel well. I mean “feel” like emotions, to really practice an emotionally balanced life. I’m not saying I can’t get pissed off or angry or sad or nervous. It’s about how long I want to stay there. How long you stay there matters.
There are so many things that drive why I want to do this. I don’t know, I’m so obsessed with medicine. It’s more that I’m obsessed with making a better world. I have seen medicine from the inside, I’ve grown up with a doctor mom, I’ve watched it change, and now I want to change it to something better.
I do offer services for those of you who want to take a deeper dive into understanding who you are, what your health diagnoses mean, what best ways you can navigate through the system. I want to be there and I want to be able to help you. This is something that needs to happen. The system won’t do it for you. You have to do this for yourself.
There’s a very old fable that has been told through many religious traditions, and it has a really important philosophical message. Here it is…
There were six blind men who were asked by the sage to examine an elephant, something they’ve never experienced before. Each of the blind men walked up to the elephant, and they were all there at the same time. Each one was asked to describe to the sage, “What is this?”
One blind man touches the elephant, and he says, “Ah, this is very thin. It must be a rope,” as he touches the tail.
Another bling man touches the body of the elephant, and says, “Ah, this must be a wall.”
The third blind man says, “This is very round. It must be a tree limb.”
You have these three blind men that are insistent at what each of them thinks the elephant is as the correct choice. You end up having these three men arguing with one another, they cannot agree on anything. Finally, the sage says, “Step back. The whole thing is the elephant, but each of you only will see or perceive what you experience yourself. You can’t just rely on that. You have to rely on multiple perceptions.”
That’s one of the problems with medicine today is that it relies entirely on a historical system that is limited in view and feels threatened by anything that disagrees with it. That’s not how life works. Right? You can’t just say there’s only one way to look at this, this is it. I’m not asking you to say that the heart is not a heart, but there are many ways of understanding the heart organ. There are also many ways of understanding emotions and psychology, not just from Western point of view.
If you have the ability to understand things from many perspectives, you can put the picture together and you can have a holistic understanding of it. That’s what I’m really telling you today is that we need to have more than one system. We have a very antiquated system right now that has constantly tried to squash and silence other systems, when really all of these systems can actually work very well together.
There are other industries that have adopted multi-systems in the past with success and they thrive. That’s sort of the old saying of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s absolutely true with medicine as well. We can do it safely, but we have to have this start from a very early stage. What I would argue is that we need to have it start in medical school, we have to have it start in grade school. We have to start teaching lifestyle medicine because, if you don’t learn that, if you don’t learn how to care for your body, understand your body and listen to it, you’re going to end up depending on the system. And the system right now is just not sustainable to take care of everyone at once.
Will you start? I’ll show you how. You have to be your best advocate. The system will not do it for you. Don’t wait around for it, because you may find yourself in a position. You may have already experienced that, you may have already come across a lot of obstacles, frustrations, known a friend or a family member or another loved one who has suffered through the system. You have to be able to understand it.
We’re not going to be able to replace it at this point. It will take a while, but what will work much more effectively is if you make the change yourself. You can’t change other people; you can only change you. That’s what I’m here to do. This is why I’m taking the time, why I’m leaving clinical medicine to really focus on this. We have to do better. I think you can do better, and I want you to do better.
In order to create the future of health that matters to you, you need to first understand the history and context behind the current state of affairs in healthcare. The first season will cover general introductions to topics on the healthcare system and its history. I’ll review with you the key strengths, weaknesses, differences, and similarities between two medical models. Namely, conventional Western and Chinese medicine. I begin to cover topics on self-care from the lens of Chinese medicine, bringing to you the elegance and simplicity of the ancients. Ancient medicine does have a place in modern medicine, perhaps now more than ever.
I am really excited to share the first season with you over the next three months, which will include six episodes published two times a month. This podcast reflects a tapestry of art and science, and also includes my passion for history and multiple perspectives across disciplines. Sometimes I’ll bring guests from these disciplines on the show to have conversations that I neither had time nor permission to engage in while in the corporate medical world. Guests will include authors, doctors, professors, activists, and yes, qigong masters.
I’d love to hear from you. Please send me your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics and guests you’d like to have on the show. You can find the contact form under the podcast tab at the website ThirdOpinionMD.org. Be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast and submit a rating on your favorite podcast player.
Third Opinion MD Podcast is produced by me, Barbara de la Torre, and is generously funded in part by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Music is licensed through AudioJungle. Any comments made by the host or guests on Third Opinion MD reflect opinions about healthcare and self-care. This podcast, any related blogs, books, or other media do not reflect medical advice or treatment of any medical condition in either yourself or others. Please consult with your physician for any medical issues that you may be having. I take no money from drug or device companies, and it is my mission to keep this podcast free from any commercial interests that may conflict with your personal interest in being well.
Thank you for listening. For more information on this podcast and upcoming episodes, check out the website ThirdOpinionMD.org and subscribe.