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Allegory of an Old Man’s Doctor Son

Just Treat the Sick Patients”


By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

I have known Georgia State University psychologist Dr. Gene Schmuckler Phd, MBA, CTS, of our consulting firm, the Institute of Medical Business Advisors Inc, for more than a decade. We met while in business school. He was my professor of organizational and industrial  behavior.

Since then, we have become friends and colleagues and have lectured together at various seminars and engagements. He also writes for us on his specialty of behavioral finance, medical workplace violence and physician career re-engineering. Of course, his advice was vital to me as I made my own career transition from clinical medicine about a dozen years ago.

The Story

When speaking or publishing, Gene sometimes asks exasperated doctors to recall the story of an old man who spent the day watching his physician son treating HMO patients in the office.  The doctor had been working at his usual feverish pace all morning, and although he was working hard, bitterly complained to his dad that he was not making as much money as he used to. Finally, the old man interrupted him and said,

“Son, why don’t you just treat the sick patients?” 

The doctor-son looked annoyed at his father, and responded,

“Dad, can’t you see, I don’t have time to treat just the sick ones.”


I don’t know if this story is original, or not, but it sure causes one to ponder, a bit. So, always remember to add some emotional sanity into your endeavors.



What do you think? Let us know what’s on your mind with a post, opinion or comment.


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3 Responses

  1. An interesting story. It tells us as much about HMOs as it does about the emotional sanity of the practicing physician. It can be draining to spend a long day dealing with restrictive formularies and prior authorizations, especially for the decreasing level of pay offered by managed care.

    Brian J. Knabe MD CMP™ FAAFP
    Savant Capital Management, Inc®.
    190 Buckley Drive
    Rockford, IL 61107
    Tel 815-227-0300
    Fax 815-226-2195


  2. I agree with our colleague Robert Wachter MD who suggests that one may be constantly impressed by the power of a good story to illustrate the essential truths in our crazy world.

    Although data and graphs can be powerful tools, I too find that nothing can match a great anecdote in memorably promoting deep understanding.

    Dr. Chip


  3. Dr. Marcinko,

    What a lovely story and much food for thought in healthcare today.



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