I had the great privilege in being trained in ophthalmology by William H. Havener, M.D. back in the early 1980’s. Dr. Havener was a world class ophthalmologist and chairman of in the Department of Ophthalmology at Ohio State, now known as the William H. Havener Eye Institute. He taught me many things, from the proper way to use the surgical microscope to creating a proper cataract incision. But more importantly, he tried to give all those that trained under him a sense of how to communicate with our patients in order to provide the best possible result for their problem. There are times, perhaps, that we do not meet that expectation but do all we can to ensure that we remain first and foremost our patient’s advocate, no matter the situation.
From the standpoint of the communication, he always told us that history taking is paramount so we can elicit enough detailed information to help arrive at the correct diagnosis. Likewise, he emphasized that we should speak in plain language so our patients clearly understand the situation. With proper give-and-take interaction, both the patient and the physician reach a level of acceptance and trust so that any unusual details in the history are revealed.
As a physician, it is my job to determine what is wrong and carefully assess during each step of my examination where the nature of the disease is present. There are many aspects to the visual system that can affect our sight and our years of training allow us to go through a wide spectrum of choices, eliminating unlikely possibilities and carefully weighing the pros and cons to come to just one or two choices. At that point, we must then convey to our patients in a manner that allows them to be assured what we are stating is true and ensure we both have an understanding of their symptoms and the long-term management of their problem. All surgeons want to be helpful and assist their patients in the best manner possible. Sometimes this may mean a referral to an outside specialist or to someone within our own practice that works exclusively in the management of their condition. I have always tried to put any unwarranted fear aside for our patients and help them understand that there are many possibilities in the treatment for their particular problem. This is the great art of medicine and we take that trust that you place in us very seriously.
This type of communication Dr. Havener used to call, “reassure therapy”. It was not simply a matter of saying “Oh, do not worry”, as that never works. What I will always try to do as a physician is to give you an honest and thorough analysis of your clinical circumstance and stress the positive aspects that can be found with each condition.
– Dr. Richard Orlando