January 15, 2010

Dear Friends:

It’s somewhat of a tradition now, but since we will be inviting a number of new patients, let me begin this letter with an explanation.

Each year, the physicians and staff of Treasure Coast Dermatology (TCD) throw a Patient Appreciation Party. I would like to say the whole thing was my idea, but it wasn’t. Every couple of years I like to relay how it came about:

In 1999, I moved out of an office that I was sharing with another doctor and opened my first solo office. As customary, I organized an open house for the local physicians. Of the dozens of colleagues I invited, only one showed up.

Needless to say, I was pretty disheartened, so I mentioned this to one of my patients. He gave me the idea to have a party for my patients. As he put it, “You’re not here to take care of other doctors; You’re here to take care of us!”

Shortly after his suggestion, I organized a party for my patients, and two hundred people came … none of them doctors.

I still see patients who remember the first party fondly. Ten years later, though it has grown a bit, the spirit of our celebration is the same.

We, the physicians and staff of Treasure Coast Dermatology, thank you for the trust that you have in us to take care of you.

I’m happy to report that we have a new addition to the TCD family. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Jon Sanders recently got engaged. His Fiancee’s name is Nicole Hart (Niki).

They haven’t set a specific date for the wedding, but personally, I’m hoping they’ll marry at this year’s party …. (no pressure Jon). Jon and I have known each other since college, and I have never seen him this happy. When you see him, please congratulate both him and Niki.

Cammy and I are doing well. Unlike last year when I had a detached retina, our health is good. There’s no medicine like a good marriage, and though there’s no news yet, we are hoping to have children soon.

Now for some health care issues:

The new agenda for medical care is scary. It’s certainly a time of uncertainty for patients and doctors alike. There are many good and bad parts to our medical system. We’re human, that’s the way we build things.

I worry about the large-scale changes that are being proposed. A small mistake, in a big plan that affects so many people, can cause unintended disruptions and anguish for many.

While there are many factors to address, I would like to point out a few:

One thing that could be brought under control is the cost of medications. As I’ve mentioned in past letters, drug companies spend more money on marketing than on research and development of new medicines. This is wrong because of the inflationary effect it has on the price of medications. Further, many doctors receive gifts, dinners and the like in return for prescribing certain types of medicines. Some even have their Holiday parties paid for by drug companies.

While for years this was the standard in the medical community, it is changing. It has always been our policy at Treasure Coast Dermatology not to accept these gifts. We think it is important, when prescribing medicine for a patient, that no conflict of interest exist.

We urge our colleagues to examine their conscience with regard to this issue.

Our second concern is the changing Medicare system. Medicare was based on a promise – a promise to pay for medical care for our seniors. Further, seniors have paid their part for many years. It’s not fair to break that promise in such a wholesale manner.

There are better ways to fix the Medicare system.

One suggestion would be to increase the age at which a person receives their Medicare benefits. I don’t recommend telling people at 63 that their Medicare will be delayed until they’re 70, but that would be a reasonable suggestion for someone my age. I’m 44, and Jon is 53 (I mean 44). We have plenty of time to make plans to accommodate for a change of this type.

A slow increase in the age for one to receive Medicare would decrease expenditures and increase revenues (people like Jon and I would be working longer). A plan of this type may prevent upsetting the retirement plans of millions who have honorably contributed for most of their lives.

Also concerning is the proliferation of alternative Medicare plans (Medicare Advantage). We urge you to carefully review what you’re signing up for. Make sure you are seeing a physician regularly. We applaud the use of Nurse Practitioners for basic General Medicine, but if you go to a doctor’s office, you should still see the doctor every year or more often if you have a serious or chronic problem.

Jon and I feel physicians’ assistants should only be used if and when a doctor is present and participating in the care of the patient. In Florida, the talk is about easy availability. What they don’t tell you is, in Florida, easy availability means to be available by telephone. If it were me, and an assistant was performing surgery on me or a loved one, I would hope that the doctor was closer than a phone call away.

In closing, as many of you know, Dr. Sanders and I are donors for the Indian River State College Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex. This complex has a number of buildings that will be used to aid in teaching emergency responders tactics and strategies to deal with the many emergency situations our country has faced in the past and will likely face in the future.

Since I came to this area, I have felt it important to give back to the community that has given me so much, but my intent for relaying this information is more personal.

Jon and I decided to dedicate and name the building we sponsored after Jon’s uncle, Robert Burroughs. Robert has cerebral palsy and has needed care since birth. I met him soon after Jon and I met in college.

To this day, neither Jon nor Jon’s family realize the effect that knowing Rob has had on me.

Jon’s grandparents and Jon’s mother have always taken care of Rob. It is inspirational to see a family so dedicated, though that’s not why we named the building after Rob.

Rob’s family is exceptional, but Rob is equally remarkable. Confined to a wheelchair and struggling with a severe speech impediment, I’ve never spent a visit without Rob making jokes … razzing both me and Jon. He transcends what many would call bis handicap. He does not let his body define who he is. He inspires me with his intellect and sense of humor and doesn’t even know he’s doing so.

These days, it seems that our society could use more heroes. Robert Burroughs is a hero whose song is unsung. I hope one day he comes to one of our parties so you can meet him – he’s faced his life with strength, courage, faith and love.

There are many lessons one could learn from Rob, but I think the most important is that we affect each other every day in many ways. Please recognize the enormous impact you have on those around you.

Last but never least; please send a prayer to our American brothers and sisters fighting overseas who are not able to be with their families
this season.

Best wishes to all,

Tim Ioannides, M.D.