Saturday, March 31, 2007

The doctor as STAR

Yesterday was “doctor’s day” at CGH, and members of the medical staff stopped in the cafeteria for a free pancake breakfast – and a chance to socialize with their medical colleagues. In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, a pancake breakfast is a low-tech opportunity for doctors simply to say “hi” and take a moment to catch up with one another.

Physicians have faster access to information, such as the Digital Passport,[1] but they may actually see one another less frequently than in the past. With hospitalist services available to patients, many physicians spend more time in their offices and less time at CGH. With more outpatient care, the hospital is not the sole focus of physicians’ busy lives. So CGH’s “famous pancake breakfasts” are an opportunity for doctors stay in touch on a personal level, not just professionally.

Yesterday, the doctors’ pancake breakfast added a new dimension, thanks to Dr. Andrew Merritt, the Marcellus family physician who is serving as CGH’s interim Chief Medical Officer, or CMO. Dr. Merritt has started a “physician STAR award” to recognize doctors with star qualities – that is Sensitivity, Thoughtfulness, Appreciation, and Respect (STAR).[2]

I was pleased to join Dr. Merritt yesterday in presenting CGH’s first STAR award to Dr. Joseph Barry of Preventive Medicine Associates, PLLC in Camillus, NY. Dr. Barry, who also serves as medical director of CGH’s skilled nursing facility (sixth floor), “on a routine basis sets aside time to play chess with multiple residents on 6 West,” in the words of one nomination form.

Dr. Barry’s “genuine humor and lighthearted challenge to residents has created a splash of excitement,” on the sixth floor, and his “thoughtfulness extends to the rest of the residents who…come to watch the ‘the chess match’…” During the match, Dr. Barry talks with the residents “on a casual, loving level,” and he is “always generous to provide pizza as a prize if he loses…”

Another nominator called Dr. Barry “a man of the people, always approachable,” and “someone who totally immerses himself in an medical problems from the patient’s perspective.”

The STAR award comes with a certificate for the physician, dinner for two at a local restaurant, and a special visit (next week) with treats for the doctor’s office staff – all courtesy of the Auxiliary to Community General Hospital.

Medicine may be more fast-paced than ever. Physicians may communicate less in person and more over the internet. But the STAR award reassures us that physicians, as busy as they may be, continue to make a difference on the human level.

Thank you, Dr. Barry.

[1] The Digital Passport is CGH’s name for several electronic information initiatives that started in 2005 and will continue to roll-out over the next two years. They are SCM Clinical Manager, Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE), and the Surgery Information System (SiS).

[2] Anyone can nominate a CGH physician for a STAR award. On any CGH computer, go to CGHNet and move the cursor to “Point Here” to find the drop-down menu. On the menu find “Forms” and click on “Physician STAR Award.” This brings you to the STAR nominating form. After completing the form, return it to Trudy Orr or Joan Russell in the Medical Affairs Office.

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