Julie Seedorf: Ethical, trustworthy treatment is a priority

Published 12:52 pm Sunday, May 20, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf


The dictionary in one of its definitions of trust states it is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.

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I read the news of Dr. Thorn retiring from Mercy Medical Center in Mason City. I have never met Dr. Thorn. He has never been my doctor, but I have known who he is for years from his reputation, first with the Albert Lea medical systems and then Mercy Medical. Instinctively I know he is a doctor I could have trusted, and I know this because of the way his patients have spread the word over the years about their care.

When it comes to having a physician, trust is an important part of the package while being treated for an illness. Throughout my lifetime, until the past few years, I have had doctors who took care of me, knew me and whom I trusted with putting my health in their hands.

It started in my hometown clinics with Dr. Mark and Dr. Dick Virnig, and Dr. John Watkins. That trust transferred to Dr. Treanor, Dr. Tveite, Dr. Barr, Dr. Karon and, finally, Dr. Lamson. These were all physicians with the Albert Lea medical system and treated my family. Today, trying to see your personal doctor when you are ill appears to be a thing of the past and people are shuffled off to emergency or urgent care.

It is a new day of supposedly better care with medical teams comprised of nurses and doctors who can scope out the illness and find a solution. It isn’t that we can’t trust those wonderful physicians or the teams, but we have a hard time doing that when we are shuffled around. It doesn’t mean the doctors and members on the team are not qualified to treat us or will make a mistake, but a key component that may be missing as we are going through an illness is a trust that is built over time because of an ongoing relationship with medical providers.

I remember an incident maybe 40 years ago when I was ill and my family GP was on vacation. I went to someone who didn’t know me. I had high anxiety because I was sick and felt as if I were dying. He prescribed medication to calm me down, never mind I had a fever. He didn’t know I wasn’t usually this crazy person he had in front of him. The next week I ended up going to my gynecologist for another problem. He knew me well because I had an ongoing issue that we were dealing with and taking care of. He said to me, “This isn’t you. Something else is going on. I am going to get you right in to ….” and he named another doctor. He went down the hall, talked to the other doctor and the doctor saw me immediately, and yes I was ill. Finally, I got the right medication. My doctor knew me because I had seen him for years. The same was said for all the family doctors and pediatricians who took care of my family. They knew when something was out of the ordinary because they knew us and were familiar with our medical history. There is more to the story when we are ill than what you can see on paper and records.

In listening to his patients, Dr. Thorn was that type of doctor. Will we see that again? He will be missed in more ways than one.

I had a family friend who had the same oncologist for 20 years until the system in Rochester changed. Her oncologist knew her and my friend trusted her doctor. They were a team, a different kind of team than what is now in place. Her care changed when she lost her doctor to the team approach and she no longer felt the trust and got the care she had and needed. It wasn’t her new doctor’s fault or the team’s fault but it was the way the system works that is now in place.

Trust, the spark of hope when we are floundering through an illness and despair; the emotion we need to rely on to get us through — trust which may be needed in a person or system.

Young adults in our society today, who may be at the top of the ladder making decisions, might have never known this kind of trust and care. How can they model this care in medical organizations when they know no different? Maybe our newer doctors have never experienced it either.

Perhaps the only way medicine will change is if the doctors take a stand and make known they need to treat their patients the way they feel is best and not the way insurances and the big medical conglomerates tell them because of cost. Consumers and doctors coming together and standing up for ethical, trustworthy treatment for all may be the only answer.

From what I understand Dr. Thorn was that doctor who put his patients first. I am sorry I never met you, but I feel as if I have by the way your patients speak your name with trust and thankfulness. Thank you for saving lives and being a caring doctor. I wish you well. You will be missed.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.