A Knight In Shining Armor

Dr. Ballard made the cover. The current issue of Cleveland Scene featured a story about Robert Ballard, M.D. It appears that Dr. Ballard, age 69, was recently fired. This was not the first time he was fired or defunded, just the most recent and, in his mind, most surprising. Scene depicts him as a good doctor, a caring physician, a practitioner committed to Wellness. He just wants a salary. Is that so awful? Forty-three years since his graduation from a Cleveland medical school and he still hasn’t grasped how and why he gets paid. In essence, he is the poster grandparent for single payer health care.

I bring up Dr. Ballard because of Scene’s cover. There, in four color, is the unemployed doctor dressed in a lab coat walking his dog. I have developed a real appreciation for lab coats.

You can’t be a real doctor, or even a real fake doctor, or even a good stage prop without a lab coat.

I was in China for nine days this past April. My tour took me to Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou. I was at the Great Wall (amazing pictures), a Ming Tomb, and the Buddhist Temple LingYin. Other cultural/shopping destinations included a jade factory, a silk factory, and a Cloisonné factory. You get the idea. We also stopped in the offices of the purveyors of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The doctor explained the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and we were each given the opportunity for a free exam. No blood tests. No sample jars or paper cups. The doctor diagnosed each person, one at a time, by simply taking the patient’s pulse. Then he prescribed the appropriate herbs each inevitably needed.

The doctor took my pulse and asked about my blood pressure medication. “None”, I replied. He was baffled. Me? I was totally relaxed and trying hard not to laugh. I love a good sales pitch. No blood tests. No tests at all. Why was he wearing a lab coat? Our doctor was in costume for his American audience.

My fascination with lab coats can be traced to the recent health care debate. My local Congresswoman, Marcia Fudge, was hoping that her vote was going to be news. It wasn’t. Our Congressional Representatives, even those in safe districts, need to make the six o’clock news now and then, if only for their egos and fundraising. The “White Coat Doctors”, Doctors Organized for Health Care Solutions, were ready to play their part. This is the group that instructs its members to keep their lab coats in their cars and to be ready at a moment’s notice. Their job is to show up at the press conference, coats on, and to nod approvingly. It took tens of thousands of dollars of education for these people to be stage props. But if you call them, they will ride in, like knights in shining armor.



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6 Responses to A Knight In Shining Armor

  1. Jeff Hershberger says:

    Ah, the lab coat. It's a cultural icon. I wear one too–at work, when I think I'm going to get covered with shreds of hot metal or indelible silicone-based greases. Otherwise, no: they make me sweat and they look dorky.

    But I have also worn them for the last two Halloweens. First, as Beaker, from the Muppet Show. I wore a red clown nose and spiked my hair with red dye. I borrowed a (thoroughly cleaned) actual 400ml beaker and drank beer out of it all night, that is, until I dropped and broke it.

    The second year, I went as Flask, Beaker's unfamous, bitter brother. This time I drank beer out of a plastic flask. It was a little lame. I couldn't help but notice the half-dozen other guys at the bar who had also worn lab coats to the party. "Gynecologist." "Plastic surgeon". Et cetera.

    It is, indeed, a cultural icon. I need to quit leaning on the stereotype myself, though it's remarkably difficult for me to explain what I do to a stranger in the timespan of an elevator ride.

    I'm glad I caught this post while it was fresh, btw. I've been in China for a week myself, and my blogreader's feed of unread subscriptions numbered over 500 this morning. I'll take pictures.

  2. Ellen J says:

    I don't know who your dr. is, "But if you call them, they will ride in, like knights in shining armor" doesn't fit mine. Would it was that easy to get a knight in shining armor! I'll settle for a night of good sleep or my knight, not withstanding the few armor chinks and bit of tarnish around the edges, thank you. (Good article — got my g'twins lab coats for science experiments — they hate them because it reminds them of the doctor!)

  3. Donna says:

    Hi there:

    I don't have a problem with lab coats. It is part of the professional uniform. It looks clean and polished and – in my mind – conveys a sense of trust. Why do you wear suits in your business to meet with clients. Why just not jeans and a sweatshirt. You are trying to convey an image.

    Also, if I were in the hospital, the white coat helps me identify who the doctors are. Absent their white coat, you can always look for the crisp preppy shirt and tassled loafers.

  4. Lowell Doyon says:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m improving myself. I absolutely liked reading all that is posted on your site.Keep the information coming. I enjoyed it!

  5. […] group, Doctors for Health Care Solutions. Longtime readers of this blog remember this group as the stage props who show up with their white lab coats whenever a politician endorses the President’s health care […]

  6. […] they had made their choices.  In 2009 and 2010 it was particularly easy to skewer Representatives Marcia Fudge and Dennis Kucinich and Senator Sherrod Brown.  After all, the Democrats were the only ones doing […]

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