Winners of the 2000 Doctors& Writing Contest
A year ago, I received a letter from Mary Ann Bauman, an internist in Oklahoma City:
"Dear Mr. Forster:
I've read numerous stories written by physicians in Medical Economics, and I know you frequently call for physician manuscripts. Perhaps you will find the following worthy of a first-person story."
That would prove to be the understatement of the year.
Bauman, who's employed by an integrated health system, wanted to share some "time saving tips" and "substantial changes" she and her colleagues in group practice had made that helped them to "work smarter." Those changes, based on consultants' recommendations and physicians' input, enabled her to stay in practice at a time when she was tempted to succumb to the endless frustrations of the "system." Thanks to a top-to-bottom practice makeover, she finds medicine rewardingand funonce again.
We love success stories, so we sent Bauman a copy of our Writer's Guide and encouraged her to put an article together. Four months later the manuscript arrived, and by Jan. 22 it was on the cover of this magazine under the title, "What would make your day perfect?". It's the tale of a stunning transformation: The group's office is more efficient, staff morale is up, patients are happier, and they're getting better care.
Having a "perfect" day may be just a bit of a stretch, but we'll be the first to tell you that Mary Ann Bauman's article came as close to perfection as any writing effort can. It's our unanimous choice as the Grand Prize winner in the 2000 Doctors' Writing Contest. The winner, and anyone she wants to take along, can travel anywhere in the world on our dime, up to $8,500. She'll have an extra $2,000 in pocket money because her article was also judged best in the contest's Group Practice category.
It's a privilegea refreshing oneto honor a submission that speaks frankly, directly, and positively to issues that trouble the medical profession these days. Bauman's story emerged atop a field of more than 400 manuscripts, 150 of which we accepted for publication.
You'll meet the other top winners below. In my mind, everyone who submits a manuscript is a winner. We value what you have to say, we learn from every contact, and we develop good friendships with many of you along the way.
Let us hear from you! In the meantime, congratulations and many thanks to all.
A special thanks to Outside Copy Editor Helen McKenna and Outside Copy Administrator Margaret Scanlon for running the contest with utmost competence, courtesy, and creativity.
"We must overcome our feelings of victimization. When I first started seeing more patients under managed care, I resented having to spend a few hours every Saturday finishing up paperwork. Eventually, I realized this was my own choice, in part because I don't like to have anything left over to finish the next week, and because I prefer to leave early some days to pick up my daughter at school. Once I determined that it was my choice to come in on Saturdays, I stopped being a victim and was happy with my decision. . . . That's the keystaying in control of your own destiny, in matters large and small. To all of those doctors who've determined that medicine drives them crazy, I say you can diminish your level of frustration."
Our runner-up is Allan E. File, an FP from Urbana, IL, whose malpractice case was literally a trial by fire. Bad enough that File found himself sitting at the defense table in a courtroom; even worse was the Molotov cocktail that some lunatic tossed at the 69-year-old judge. Instead of fleeing the conflagration, File tended to the jurist and whisked him to safety. File's riveting tale will appear in our March 19 issue.
"Colleagues had warned me that a malpractice suit can really take a toll on a physician. I never suspected that it might nearly take my life. . . . As the flaming bottle-bomb whizzed past me in the courtroom, my first thoughts were a swirl of panic, disbelief, and self-preservation. I slammed my jaw against a hard edge as I dove under the table and braced for the explosion. I could taste the bitter tang of blood in my mouth and hear the screams of jurors stampeding by me. My mind registered a feeble protest: Wait a minute! I'm just an ordinary guy. These things don't happen to people like me."
This award, now in its second year, goes to the best article by a physician who has been in practice for five years or less or is in residency. The 2000 winner is Kristine L. McCallum, an FP in Chillicothe, OH, who shared the ups and downs of working in a community health center. Suffused with idealism and energy, she and her physician husband, Scott, went to a rural area where doctors were in short supplyonly to run smack up against a system riddled with bureaucratic ineptitude and plagued by a lack of incentives to convince physicians to stay.
"Getting in my truck for the drive home from the clinic, I'm thinking about all the patients I saw today with 'nerves,' the local vernacular for depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. . . . Also on my mind are two new patients with lower back pain. Without insurance, they can't afford physical therapy or the pain clinic I'd like to refer them to. . . . But it was Mr. Williamswhom I've seen through coronary bypass surgery, depression, hyperlipidemia, and hypertensionwho posed the question that troubled me the most: 'Are you going to stay here, Doc? All the good doctors always leave.' "
We received so many good manuscripts from young physicians that we decided to award two special runner-up prizes of $500 each. Both are doctors who wrote movingly about their experiences doing medical mission work.
Christine M. Pluta, a family practice resident in Philadelphia, spent a week at a fledgling clinic in Nicaragua. "The first day was an exhausting blur," she wrote, "the second day a challenge, and the remainder of the time, I soon came to realize, was a lesson in love."
Michael A. Tolle, an FP in Dallas, traveled to Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch ("After the hurricane, the healing begins," Sept. 4, 2000). Amid the wreckage and the enduring poverty, he discovered that "you see more smiles in a week in the village than in many months back home."
Enter our 2001 Doctors' Writing Contest!
Eric P. Benson, MD, internist, Athol, ID
Melodie Blacklidge, MD, pediatrician, Cincinnati
Kathryn B. Einhaus, MD, ob/gyn, Fort Wayne, IN
Richard Fleming, MD, internist, Vallejo, CA
Bryan S. Jick, MD, ob/gyn, Pasadena, CA
David L. Klocke, MD, internist, Rochester, MN
Marybeth Lambe, MD, FP, Redmond, WA
James H. Mooney, MD, internist, Ashland, OH
Wernher Ovalle, MD, internist, Fountain Valley, CA
Joan M. Resk, DO, FP, Roanoke, VA
Marc A. Ringel, MD, FP, Greeley, CO
Arthur F. Schiff, MD, family practitioner, Miami, FL
Harry L. Stuber, MD, ob/gyn, Cookeville, TN
Jeffrey R. White, MD, FP, Spokane, WA
Richard A. Williams, MD, FP, Grants Pass, OR
Jeff Forster. Doctors' Writing Contest: A "perfect" ending. Medical Economics 2001;5:4.