Hanging Up the Stethoscope

My senior colleague and former personal physician, Dr. Wilford Brown III, whom I have mentioned often in this weblog, appeared at the nurses station during my Saturday clinic.

He wanted to talk, and started walking toward my office, where I had just hung photographs of Sir William Osler, Uppsala University’s original anatomy building, Marcus Welby, the St Elsewhere crew, the lead actors from the British TV series “Doctor in the House”, and the M*A*S*H crew.

Sitting there against the backdrop of my other medical heroes and my alma mater, he told me he had been doing a lot of thinking. “My family has been bugging me to get done and, you know, during that staff meeting we had a couple of weeks ago about the quality indicators for the ACO and the EMR optimization, I thought to myself this is not medicine.”

He sat quiet for a few moments. Our eyes met and I frowned a little.

“I’d like to stop before my abilities fail me, I wouldn’t want to see my name on the front page of the newspaper for something I missed or didn’t do right.”

“How do I do this, I mean how much time…” his voice trailed.

“Well, we don’t have contracts, but the personnel policies say providers need to give three months notice”, I said. “But nobody has been held to that. How soon do you want to get done?”

“As soon as you think it’s all right.”

“You mean, the sooner the better?”


“Do you want to write something, like a letter of resignation to the CEO?”

“Can you tell him?”

“I’ll tell him Monday morning.”

“Remember when I came here to be your patient and you asked me if I wanted to fill in a little? That was almost fifteen years ago…”

“I remember. It’s been a real pleasure to work with you.”

“Thanks”, he said, unceremoniously. “I’ll let you get back to seeing patients.”

He stood up. I was still sitting down, in my own thoughts about our years together. For a brief moment his face was right next to Sir Willam Osler’s face, and it was as if both men were looking down at me where I was sitting, feeling just a little bit lost.

(Three posts about Dr. Brown, all from 2008, are “The Doctor’s Doctor”, “My Senior Colleague” and “A Concurring Second Opinion”.)

5 Responses to “Hanging Up the Stethoscope”

  1. 1 marc lippman MD November 19, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    obviously i know neither of you but this seems like less exploration of the situation than i would have done with a close colleague..
    had something happened to him or his family ?
    how abrupt was this decision ?
    was he depressed or was there some other health issue
    it seemed to me that Dr B was reaching out for something which it doesn’t seem as though he received……

  2. 3 Jeffrey Fandrich November 19, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    I hope that you will grace us with another story or two about Dr. Brown.

    • 4 acountrydoctorwrites November 19, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      I’m sure I’ll write more about him. He appears in many other posts. Search for “Wilford” in the search window on the blog until then.

  3. 5 Sarah November 20, 2017 at 1:28 am

    I am a little sad reading this…. I have mentors that are few years from retirement. Getting sentimental.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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