Sunday, November 29, 2009

Excuse me, but your ego is in the way of my good health...

So, I took a bit of time off from school work to go to a diabetes event at one of the hospitals here in Toronto. For the most part, it was fantabulous. I love being in a room full of people that also beep on a regular basis and all the food served had nutritional breakdowns attached (was like diabeetus heaven). But, there's always that one speaker...

The piece was about type 1 diabetes and physician-patient relationships. It started off really good- talking about real-life comments from diabetes patients about their frustrations with healthcare providers. I thought, perhaps naively, that the speaker was heading into a conversation about some of the misconceptions held by many healthcare providers around issues of diabetes... No. Instead the ENTIRE discussion focused on findings of the DAWN Study around the psychosocial issues people with diabetes face. It was like he was talking to a room full of 'healthy' people... like all of us diabetic people were invisible in the room.

So, when the talk finished I dutifully put my hand up in the air to challenge what he was saying... "I've had diabetes for almost 16 years. I've never had an A1C above a 7. But I still get doctors that treat me like I'm clueless and I've had physicians that have called me a liar to my face," I said "Considering, then, why did you choose to leave out healthcare professionals in your analysis?"

The speaker kind of bumbled for a minute, but finally admitted to two things:
1. The traditional teachings around medical practice preached lecturing patients about all of the frightening possible complications of diabetes as a model of gaining patient compliance;
2. Umm... actually changing bad physician behaviours is probably even harder than changing negative patient behaviours.

I felt kind of sheepish about my question on several counts. First, I don't like talking about my diabetes control. I worry sometimes that people think I am doing something magical to keep my blood sugars in check, when the truth of it is that I sometimes I've just been really lucky in controlling the condition. But, then, I felt even more awkward after all the presentations when people I'd never met came up to me to comment that they too were feeling frustrated by the speakers talk.

As I left the conference I tried to hold on to the general feelings of contentment around the presentations and the positive people of the day, but I couldn't rid myself of the nagging sense of anger rheuminating in the back of my mind at the fact that a lone physician managed to silence an entire auditorium full of diabetes patients. Not nice, doc, not nice at all.