Brief encounter with rock star influences physician's career, an editorial

May 25, 2011

The author says he's been a self-proclaimed fan of The Who for decades.

I had seen the band perform live, before my wife and I met. A few years ago, The Who toured North America, but the complexities of distance and scheduling weighed against the demands of caring for our children and our busy practices; attending a concert together seemed impossible. Imagine my excitement and resolve to attend, then, when it was announced that lead singer Roger Daltrey was embarking on a solo tour and that he would be performing in the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

One of my best friends and both of our wives all agreed that we would go. All I had to do was get the tickets. Here entered two life rewards that the practice of medicine has afforded me and for which I am grateful: first, compensation to the point that I not only could buy tickets to the event but also the one-on-one "meet and greet" session before the concert, and second, the typing skills I honed spending hours and years pounding away at the keyboard of my electronic health record (EHR) system.

My heart was pounding like a bass drum. Imagine my concern when I looked on the Ticketmaster venue map and could not locate my seats. Somewhat distressed, I called the Ryman's ticket office and explained my situation. Once the agent explained that I needed to look at the open well in front of the first row and visualize two rows of folding chairs, I understood that our seats were the center four in the first row. EHRs have redeeming features.

The night of the event, all who were to meet Roger arrived early and were seated together to wait their turn. It was then that I was reminded of two more lessons germane to the practice of medicine.

One of the fans in attendance was a young teen with a seizure disorder. She had been hospitalized in Atlanta until the last possible moment and had been uncertain whether she would be able to attend the concert. Her presence was a heartwarming reminder of the benefits that modern medical care provides to both make possible and enrich our patients' lives.

The second lesson was that, due to the expense of this woman's medical bills, her parents had not been able to afford the additional cost of the meet-and-greet session. Charity then intervened. Roger, a patron of children's charities, waived all fees, serving as an example that those with position, authority, and ability must remember charity.

Musing on these thoughts as I awaited my turn to meet him, I didn't expect any additional insights into my professional life that night. When I met Roger, however, I found him to be remarkably engaging, focused, and determined that the person in front of him have a fulfilling experience. For that moment, no one else mattered. As harried as those of us can be in primary care, this example was a wonderful reminder that we should not allow a computer, an insurance company, or a previous patient to diminish our focus on and presence with the patient in our midst.