Friday, August 6, 2010


J and I have to find a pediatrician for LO. This is more difficult than you might think. I have not had particularly good experiences with doctors in the past. There was smarmy guy gynecologist, which is what you always are looking for in a girl-parts doctor. (Frankly, I could handle his smarminess, but his staff was also kind of short with me.) Then there was The Doctor Who Would Not Listen To A Word I Said. On my first visit to TDWWNLTAWIS, the staff transposed two numbers in my weight, saying I weighed 153 when I was about 135. When I came back 6 weeks later, I weighed 133. TDWWNLTAWIS was concerned about my rapid weight loss. I laughed and said someone must have transposed the numbers. They weighed me again on that visit. I still weighed 133. No note was made of the fact that this MUST have been their mistake on the previous visit. EVERY SINGLE VISIT I made to this doctor for the next 3 or 4 years (until I fired her), TDWWNLTAWIS made a mention of the rapid weight loss. (Which was particularly weird considering the fact that even IF there was a weight loss in the time frame mentioned, I had maintained it.) Even my OB in Columbus, whom I loved, rolled her eyes when I mentioned that I was reading a birthing manual written by one of America's leading midwives. So trusting doctors is a leetle difficult for me.

So, armed with my paranoia and the list of pediatricians in the area who accept our insurance, I spent 2-3 hours online earlier this week doing research. I went on Angie's List. I looked for reviews elsewhere. I hit a whole lot of bubkes in terms of helpful reviews. Of the 10-12 docs whose names I have, only two were reviewed on Angie's List, and the rest of the reviews were zero help. However, one doctor was a part of a group that is literally within walking distance of our house. Also, that group has a mission statement up on their website that feels pretty good. Nearly all of the docs in the practice are women, with whom I am more comfortable. So I called and made a meet and greet appointment for the only doc in the practice who is accepting new patients.

The second doc on Angie's List seemed like a possibility, but she practices in West Lafayette, and I have become so acclimated to small town living, I found myself thinking "I don't want to drive that far away!" Now, West Lafayette is perhaps 10-15 minutes away by car. If I had found a pediatrician that distance from my house in Columbus, I would have considered it a major coup. But here in Lafayette, that is so FAR away! Gamely, I looked up her practice to see if I could find a mission statement. No such luck, but there were photos of all the doctors. The one whose name I have happens to be black. Suddenly, I was much more interested in having her as my pediatrician.

Now, I have been examining this interest very closely since I made the meet-and-greet appointment. What does her being African American have to do with my interest in using her as my doctor? I can come up with some reasons, and I don't know if they are valid. For example, I want LO to grow up knowing that competence and excellence know no particular identity, race, religion, gender, orientation, age, etc. Since I am more comfortable with female doctors, is this interest in an African American doctor a similar "preference?" How would she feel if she knew that I was interested in having her as my doctor because (in addition to the good review and the good timing of getting an appointment) she was black?

So I tried to put myself in her shoes. What if a parent wanted his/her student in my class because I was Jewish--in addition to having heard good things about me? I think that I would be totally okay with that. One of the reasons I chose to teach in the area I did in Columbus was because I wanted to give students a (small) taste of diversity. I talked openly about being Jewish to my very insular classes. (I didn't make a thing of it, mind you. I just let it be a part of who I was and let it come out naturally). But I also understand that being in a minority religion like Judaism is in no way similar to being a minority in America. In graduate school, I went to an enlightening speech by the woman who did the blue eyed/brown eyed experiment (whose name escapes me right now). She brought two students on stage--a tall white boy and a shorter black girl. She asked the boy what differences there were between the two of them, and he named everything but race. He was "color blind," but it didn't mean he didn't see race. He just had been taught to "ignore" it. Many upper-middle-class whites have been taught that. Then the really interesting thing happened. The speaker asked the boy how often he thought about his race and he said never. She asked the girl, and she said daily.

I do know that this (or any doctor) would much prefer me to be interested in seeing her, rather than cross her off my list because of race. However, I also don't want her (or anyone) to feel that I am attempting to assuage liberal guilt or prop up a person as a "lesson" to my child rather than simply see him/her as a person. I don't believe that either of those accurately reflect my motivation. But, I do think it is worthwhile to do some navel-gazing.

I read an article in Newsweek excerpted from the book Nurtureshock by Po Bronson (which led to me reading the entire book) that talked about teaching children about race. It made it clear that parents need to talk openly about race to children, because kids pick up on differences and adult nervousness. This makes a great deal of sense to me, and it in fact informs how I teach. (And did so even before I read the book). I passionately believe that we will never get to the mythical "post-racial America" unless we are willing to talk openly about race, racism, history and all the ugliness that America has and will continue to go through. So in my classroom, I talk openly about things that most white teachers would shy away from. I answer questions honestly, even if they are uncomfortable. I don't flinch when it comes to the tough stuff, because if I did, there would be no opportunities (in my classroom) for growth and enlightenment.

I like where I am--at least in my classroom--when it comes to issues of race. However, I still don't know that it means that I am where I should be. It's really uncomfortable to try to pin down motivations like this. But I'm committed to thinking about it, as uncomfortable as it makes me, because without this meta-thinking, nothing will change for anyone. I hope that I provide a good example for LO.

I've decided that I'm just going to go to both meet-and-greets appointments, and see who I feel more comfortable with. It may be a moot point, however. The within-walking-distance doctor was not able to see me until 8/24--and I'm due on 9/7. If LO comes early, I'll only have met with the African American doctor (who I am meeting next Thursday).

1 comment:

  1. we have had to go through doctor shopping from moving to a new area...and I got to say, I found that I am much more comfortable with and feel valued and like my doctors are genuinely caring about me only with Asian women (including Indian). Their bedside manner is so much more patient-driven than the white women/men doctors I have had who are more about moving patients along and not listening...that's what I have found in our area.