She gives of her very soul
A neuro-oncologist who rides a Harley? Ruth K. Fredericks of Jackson, MS, is a stereotype-smasher, if ever there was one. She's also evidence that a physician can be effectiveand self-protectivewithout placing an emotional barrier between herself and desperately ill patients.
"Dr. Fredericks gives of her very soul when caring for patients with neurological disorders or brain tumors," says Stephania D. Jackson, RN, coordinator of the neuroscience center at the hospital where they both work. "She laughs and cries with patients and their families, and they repeatedly tell her that she's like their best friend."
Fredericks believes it's essential to get close to her patients, many of whom "live from scan to scan" and may gamble on questionable treatments in desperation. "One of the jobs of the neuro-oncologist is to protect patients from harmful things, to help them decide what works and what doesn'tand keep them from going off on binges," she explains.
Fredericks makes a couple of house calls a week to her terminally ill patients. She even visits those who are comatose. "I want to make sure the patients don't hurt," she says. "But the major point is to inform family members what's happening so they can help when they're needed."
For the same reasons, if she has a "sixth sense" that a patient may be in distress, she'll slip back into the hospital long after making rounds. "Family members report waking up at night and sensing that someone is in the room," says Jackson. "They'll look up and see Dr. Fredericks sitting in the chair, watching the sleeping patient breathe."
Fredericks' help goes well beyond medical and emotional support. She's infuriated that Medicare requires a two-year wait before a patient can get disability payments. "A lot of these people don't have two years to wait," she says. "They can't get health insurance, so they can't get their medications. I've tried to push for a law that would make people eligible before two years." She's been working with a group that's enlisted the aid of state legislators and hopes eventually to get the measure before Congress.
On a more personal level, she goes to bat for her patients when their employers don't promptly provide the disability payments. "I give depositions," she says. "The employers don't usually like to see me coming, but my patients know I'm available to do that if they need it."
About that Harley: She hasn't ridden one for years, but she has a patient who's a Harley freak. After his diagnosis, he became depressed and refused to participate in physical therapy. Fredericks promised him that if he pushed himself to the point where he could walk, she'd rent a Harley and take him for a ride.
The patient, who calls Fredericks "Motorcycle Mama," is now in remission and walking with a cane. And so, Fredericks says with a chuckle, "I think it's about time for me to pay up."
Do you know a physician who goes beyond the demands of day-to-day practice to do something special for patients, colleagues, or the community at large?
Continuing a feature inaugurated in our 75th anniversary issue, Medical Economics is honoring these special individuals on a regular basis. We'll publish a brief profile of the physician and his or her contributions. It's our way of sharing good news about good deeds among the medical profession.
We're not looking for giants in medical research, doctors of academic renown, or those with major roles in health policy. Instead, we want to honor in-the-trenches physicians, currently in active practice, who have had an impact.
Our criteria in choosing honorees aren't rigid. Perhaps you know a colleague who's seeing to it that underprivileged kids or neglected seniors get a break . . . one who's been a force in improving the quality of care in the community . . . or a doctor who donates services regularly to patients with no other access to care. Those are just a few examples of the many ways in which physicians deserve recognition.
Please use the space below to submit a nominationand feel free to attach a separate sheet or other documentation.
Please describe the physician's special contributions to his or her community, patients, or colleagues.
Be specific: Tell us several anecdotes or accomplishments that persuasively illustrate your nominee's unique qualities.
Fax this form to : (201) 722-2688
Or mail to:
Jeff Forster, Editor, Medical Economics magazine
5 Paragon Drive Montvale, NJ 07645-1742
. Doctors Who Go the Extra Mile: She gives of her very soul. Medical Economics 2000;9:121.