People Are Different

March 11, 2020

People Are Different

It is amazing how we go through phases in life, and our perspectives can be so different from one period to the next.  In one season, the world can be a sunny, bright wonderland, brimming with opportunities.  And just around the corner, it can seem like all the doors are closed and the light has faded into shadows.  And then the sun breaks through, forming a partly cloudy skyscape, and a whole new set of possibilities is presented.  Life can turn on a dime, making it all the more important to cherish the time that we have, as the days go by.

It would be foolish to say that these different proverbial seasons are the same as each other.  Quite simply, they’re not.  Trying to live and thrive through each one with an identical, inflexible, cookie-cutter plan would not make sense.  And yet, this strategy is what modern medicine seems to choose most often when trying help different patients to overcome and flourish.  Let me try to illustrate this a little bit better.

Patients are questioned, examined, and have routine screening tests done in order to figure out what diagnoses they have.  This allows them to be compartmentalized into categories.  Each category is then given requisite treatment based on risk stratification.  Classes of medicines have been approved for each category, and treatment plans are executed based on a research-driven, evidence-based model.  If you fall into a particular category, you get the treatment plan for that group because the majority are shown to improve that way.  But there is a problem with this process.

Somewhere in the routine “machine”, we have lost our grasp on the individual.  It is true that we are similar to each other in many ways, and yet we are so different at the same time.  Try to discover the number of “what if’s” that are feasible based on your uniqueness compared with other people.  This amount is immense.  We could begin today and likely not finish during our lifetimes.  Just think of the possibilities.

What if your genetic makeup is such that you metabolize a subclass of antihypertensive medicines differently from the average?  What if your school or work schedule forces you to go to sleep several hours later than most people?  What if you had a childhood experience that resulted in anxiety about certain parts of the medical system, and so you react differently to questions than others?  What if your tendency is to rarely run a fever, even when you have had significant infections?  What if your goals for your health are different from your doctor’s because you have a different belief system from the last 10 patients that he or she saw?

Regarding genetics, the number of variations based on DNA complexity is infinite.  Regarding lifestyle, there is not one person who is exactly like another in their balance of work, rest, and play.  Regarding mental and emotional processing, there are literally more than a Googleplex of possible permutations in the human developmental journey.  Regarding physiological balance and imbalance, each of us has variety in our fine tuning of every single organ system and tissue type.  Regarding values and worldviews, not one is exactly like another, and our backgrounds and cultures really shape our priorities with regard to medical decision making.

As we try to meet people at their point of need, we see these phenomena so frequently.  A man has a strange reaction to a medicine that is atypical.  A woman spontaneously enters menopause 10 years earlier than expected based on average timelines.  A child behaves hysterically after eating certain foods which other children have no problem with.

People really are different.

And so, the physician and patient have appointments.  It happens thousands of times every day, if not hundreds of thousands.  But what happens?  Too often, a busy schedule leads to generalization and compartmentalization.  You receive what everyone else in your category receives, a cookie cutter approach.  Is there time during a 10-minute visit to discover how you are different?  What makes you unique?  What treatment is best for you?

Unfortunately, there are not many physicians who have the time and the desire (it takes both) to really get to know the details of your case and tailor therapy to your specific situation.  This is sadly the way that medical treatment has evolved in our society over the past 40-50 years.  But it is not the last word.

There is still a spark of passion left in the medical profession for this concept that I am describing, which some have grasped hold of and kept alive.  It is often a fight, but some are pressing into the challenges of the workweek.  It takes a structured approach that allows time.  Enough time for a true conversation with real questions that lead to specific answers that address you.  

It is essential to address not only you as a patient, but you as a whole person.  What is your life like?  What are your goals?  What are your genetics?  What are your thoughts?  What makes you different?  We ask questions about your organ systems, your nervous system, your GI tract, your joints, and your blood vessels.  

Within this realm of appreciating individualization, we are seeking you.  If you are wanting to be treated like a unique individual, we hope that you find someone who is able to meet you at your point of need.  God willing, we may perhaps find each other. 

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