Doctor Curmudgeon: Yes, Virginia, there is joy in medicine


Today, Doctor Curmudgeon has accessed that spark that remains deeply within her heart.

It glows, a tiny ember that used to burn more brightly.

Yet, it is still there.

It had been a grumpy mid-morning for the Cranky doctor, filled with denials of necessary scans for her patients, requests from pharmacies wanting her to justify the meds she was ordering, forms to be filled out and dumped at the front desk because the patient was too busy to make an appointment…..when she opened an envelope marked personal:

    “Dear Dr. Curmudgeon,

    I just wanted you to know how happy I am to have found you.  You really listened to me and cared about me.

   Thank you so much…”

I remembered the patient well.  He was in the throes of a vicious divorce, physically healthy and there were no meds he needed.  We talked and I had referred him to a psychiatrist.

Yes, the joy was in my heart.  I had been appreciated.

I reflected on other moments during the past few weeks, when patients had actually thanked me,

Some had come in with sad faces and my heart had gladdened to see them walk out smiling.

And the woman I had called on Monday morning with some less than happy news about a mammogram.  Due to work, she could not come in to discuss this.  We reviewed the result and where to go from there.  At the end of the conversation, she thanked me for all the time I had spent.  “And, Doctor, I am so happy that you directed me about where to go from here, so I don’t just sit around worrying.  I am so grateful.”

There was the patient who had been seen last week and then made a special trip to bring avocadoes from his garden.

Yes, we are overburdened and frequently treated like dirt. It seems that respect is being lost for our beautiful, caring profession…but there are still those who recognize who we are and are grateful that we stay the path

Yes, Virginia, There is still Joy in Medicine.  It is just harder to find.


***For those of you much younger than I, this is an explanation of my title

Back in 1897, a little girl, named Virginia, wrote a letter to the New York Sun and a reporter whose last name was Church answered her.  She asked if there was a Santa Claus.

And he answered: “Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…”

Yes, Virginia, There is still Joy in Medicine.  It is just harder to find.

Read Doctor Curmudgeon as she talks about “Yes Virginia, there is still joy in medicine”


Diane Batshaw EismanDoctor Curmudgeon is Diane Batshaw Eisman MD, FAAFP, a Family Physician, writer, voiceover artist, and medical educator. It was in the Neolithic Era that the doctor became renowned for expertise in Trephination. After so much time in practice, Doctor Curmudgeon is now cranky and has rightfully earned the honorific of “Curmudgeon.”

Doctor Curmudgeon has no idea of what will appear in this space. It depends on the Good Doctor’s mood and whatever shamans and doctors are channeled at the moment.

As a curmudgeon, I may stray from what I observe happening in medicine and slink into other areas. But that is the prerogative of a Curmudgeon


  1. Joy says

    Love it.
    I had a paramedic teaching a course to doctors that specifically said he needed to write md after each of our names because we earned it. Made my day.

  2. says

    Diane, Clara was kind enough to tell me about your blog.

    For 8 years, catastrophic illness within my family kept me in uncomfortably close proximity to the hospital environment. Within that timeframe, I met the best and worst of medical practitioners and others comprising hospital staff. I do remember with fondness, however, those doctors and nurses who made a very difficult state of affairs a lot more endurable because of atypical kindness and concern that went beyond the job requirement.

    At every opportunity, I took the time to tell them how much I appreciated them…

    Thank you for reminding me that there are medical personnel who truly care for their patients.

  3. Diane says

    Oh, Myron.
    Thank you so much
    Clara is my true sister, a brilliant, beautiful and talented woman.

    And Asimov….one of my favorite authors

  4. Andy Wilkerson says

    Hi Diane, my sister! Clara let me know you were out here in cyberspace, this is good, there needs to be Dr.s like you in the forefront, thanks for being there! I’m glad there is joy in medicine.

  5. says

    Dr. C….Diane, thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom on these posts as well as your aggravations and frustrations. You are a gem!!!
    Yes, all of you grumpy doctors out there, there is still great joy and satisfaction in our profession and the compassionate care of our fellow human beings…embrace it!

  6. Jan Golden says

    Dr. C….. It is so nice to be able to communicate w u in this day and age. When u see most physicians today, they rarely have time to see u let alone ask questions! Thank u for being there for us!!!!

  7. Ivonne says

    Yes, it is so hard to forget sometimes. Then along comes a crayon-scribbled note from a little peanut, or a card in the mail from a teenager. Invitations to graduations. Their first picture in the Armed Forces….

  8. Siberian says

    Glad to know it’s still worth it. We need doctors that still believe in taking their time with patients.

  9. Wilhuf says

    I agree with the meaning of this post.

    I’d be happy to thank my physician. But she keeps assigning her PA instead.

    I’m still looking for the elusive verb for what it is that physicians do. It’s not provide. Is it assess? Diagnose? Treat? Evaluate?

  10. Diane says

    Wilhuf, I’m not clear. What kind of verb? I can’t really think of one word that describes what we do.
    We listen
    We ask questions
    We evaluate
    We examine
    we diagnose
    We treat.
    Despite all our advances in medication, pharmacology and technology, there is still that elusive “art” in the practice of Medicine

  11. Ellen says

    Why is it that we are so quick to complain but never take the time to tell someone they are appreciated and say “thank you”. So little effort is expended and the medical professional, who holds your wellbeing in their capable hands, would truly like to hear those kind words. Doctors are not miracle workers and they deliver good news as well as bad. People shouldn’t shoot the messenger but take the time to hear what is said after deliverying the diagnosis-good, bad or neutral. They need to be thanked and appreciated, not only for their hard work, but also the human component they share with theIr patients. Sometimes a simple thank you goes a long way.

  12. Eugene H. Eisman, MD says

    Patients who are appreciative make my day, and make practicing medicine a pleasure. Those of us who use PAs, I’m sure miss much of this.

  13. Jan says

    Gratitude does good for both the giver and the recipient. Or as it was better said in time long past, “A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.”

  14. Colleague in Arms says

    In any business, unsatisfied customers complain and happy customers rarely do anything. The majority of our patients do not know how much we think about them, even worry. When patients express appreciation it acknowledges my going the distance for them. An emotional thank you often has me reaching for a kleenex.

  15. Patricia says

    I wonder if it is because when patients visit your office they are generally sick; they are still sick when they leave because they haven’t yet started the medicine/treatment prescribed. it may be several days before a patient feels better and if no follow up visit is required, no opportunity to say thanks. Not defending; just explaining.

  16. Iris says

    All that you described to Wilhuf are just some of the many reasons I love you and Gene. You have always been ‘more’ than a doctor. You are a healer, friend, and most of all someone to confide in and feel better by the experience. Nothing short of the your expertise as a physician. Thank you for sending this to me.

  17. Diane says

    Oh, Teckels, I do understand.

    But when I close the door and am alone with my patient and focus on that person and am able to help…the joy returns

  18. Margie Anton says

    You and Eugene have always given your undivided attention for however long it took to answer our questions and concerns. What a breath of fresh air in this hustle-bustle, love ‘em and leave ‘em world! Doctors who truly find joy in their practice are rare these days!

  19. says

    I am 12 days after this column just now putting in my 2 cents. That’s bc I have spent the last 2 weeks (&weekends) preparing a huge # of files to send to MC with the help of my records staff and another clinician in the office. And I am still not done! Hopefully by Friday….at least until the next time CMS comes calling. It is a joy to help people. . But I am afraid the the frontline of helpers mat be needing help!

  20. Diane says

    Amen to that, Marie.
    So much of our time is spent on trying to satisfy all the rules and regulations and all the paper work and…..arrrrgggghhhhh

  21. Marc Singer says

    As to joy in Medicine: as the son of a physician who saved many lives and the thankful patient of a physician who saved me in the aftermath of my reaction to Chemo 10 years ago (next month) –
    it is just another mostly thankless profession, just like architecture.
    As to today’s medicine: while Obama care has helped 10%, most of the others are suffering; treatments are curtailed and medications denied…
    But, that is the price of Socialism – the land of the FREEBE…

  22. Diane Eisman says

    Good points, Marc. I find that there are patients want the entire visit and lab work for “free.” If I order lab, they want to know if their insurance will cover it and tell me to call the insurance company and find out, before their blood is drawn.
    I tell the patient to call the insurance company and find out and give them a list of the labs I want to order and their diagnoses

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