Columns for The Lufkin News

Doing the Right Thing, One Day at a Time

Posted Jun 02, 2015 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

As I write this column, it is Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend. I have been at my office several hours working on patient charts and mapping out cancer treatment plans. This type of work cannot be done in the midst of a busy clinic day. Once I am done today, my radiation physicist will compute these patient plans. Then I will come back out later today or tomorrow to review and approve them so treatment can start next week.

Such is a typical Saturday morning for me. This is the tedious, mental work that requires me to be alert, focused, and very careful. Modern radiation treatment is highly precise, and the treatment is only as good as the planning process. If I don’t accurately target the cancer, it doesn’t get treated. And if I don’t carefully protect surrounding normal tissues, side effects can be worse. All of this takes dedicated, uninterrupted time. So, I am here at my office this lovely Saturday morning because, well, it is the right thing to do.

What does it mean to “do the right thing”?

A number of guiding principles come to mind. For me, the most important one is to take my time. Doing the tedious work on a Saturday morning or weekday evening. Spending adequate time with my patients. When I rush or get careless, I make mistakes. And by the way, we should acknowledge our mistakes and learn from them.

A second principle is: don’t do either more or less than required. Medically speaking. What I mean is physicians shouldn’t do procedures that are unnecessary just to pad their pocketbook. The flip side is also true: physicians should provide needed care even if they do not expect to be paid for it. Yes, there are times when this is not possible, but the concept and practice of providing charity care is part of who we are and what we profess to be as physicians.

Third, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I can provide most radiation-related cancer treatment in Lufkin, Texas, thanks to the fantastic equipment and personnel at CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial. But there are rare or unusual cases where I don’t mind asking colleagues for assistance. It’s OK to pick up the phone and call my Houston colleagues if needed. In a similar vein, I tell my patients that I am not offended if they decide to seek treatment elsewhere. Patients need to be comfortable getting their care from me, and almost all are. Some physicians get all bent out of shape and act offended when someone wants to go elsewhere for care. They need to get over it and realize it is not about them. We are to serve our patients, not the other way around.

Fourth, treat everyone the same. What I mean by that is, each person has value, and that value is not based on their insurance plan. We shouldn’t let money dominate our decision-making.

Reimbursement for one’s work is important, but physician compensation comes with an obligation that an ever growing, younger crop of physicians seems unwilling to meet. We “old school” physicians often lament that younger doctors don’t view medicine as a profession. New medical school graduates view medicine as a job, with an employee, get-in-and-get-out, do-the-minimum mentality. Yet, they expect high salaries off the bat. What a shame! Sometimes the best payment is the heartfelt gratitude of a needy patient.

Each of us should strive to do the right thing, one day at a time, no matter what our profession or job.

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Meet Our Team

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Radiation Oncologist

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Radiation Oncology Nurse

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Lead Radiation Therapist

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Radiation Therapist

Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

Radiation Therapist

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Dosimetrist

Linda Miller, MS

Linda Miller, MS

Medical Radiation Physicist

Evelyn Leach

Evelyn Leach

Receptionist