From Patient to Colleague

The following is an excerpt from Susan Sloane’s book, Sweet Genes: Finding a Balance Living with Diabetes. This excerpt is written by her son, Jason.

In walked Dr. Wolfsdorf, a soft-spoken man with a thick South African accent and dark hair that matched his thick mustache. He was warm, kind, and pretty much everything a great doctor should be. Instead of just talking to my parents, he spoke directly to me, despite my young age. This was more empowering than he could ever know.

“So how ya doin’, Jason?” he said in that accent.

I couldn’t help but smile.

He would go on about how big I was getting and how I must be eating my parents out of the house. We talked about diabetes, of course, and he explained to me on a very basic level about the disease and how learning about it would only help me take better care of myself. He talked to my parents about the details of care and did his best to allay their fears. And I think he did make them feel more comfortable with everything just by spending time with us and being compassionate and genuine.

Near the end of one visit, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Superhero had crossed my mind a couple of times, but that wasn’t realistic. I could never be an astronaut because I didn’t like freeze-dried food and going over a bump in the car made my stomach flip- flop. Firefighter was out because I had just accidently touched the stovetop at home, and I wanted no part of that heat in a career. Then it hit me. “I want to do what you do,” I said.

“Oh, you want to be a doctah?” he replied.

“Yep. I want to be the best doctor ever.”

Dr. Wolfsdorf smiled, and my parents laughed.

From that day forward, that is all I ever wanted to do.

Dr. Wolfsdorf, who gave my family and me hope and treated me until I was fourteen years old, continued to play an important role in my life. His warmth, genuine nature, and ability to make complex medical treatments and diagnoses easy for even a child to understand greatly impressed me. He made me want to learn about medicine before I could read, and the passion has been there ever since. We have stayed in contact. He came to visit me in Syracuse, and congratulated me on my high school graduation. He he even called to congratulate me on my acceptance into Duke Medical School. Dr. Wolfsdorf told me he was proud of my accomplishments and it was his pleasure to have been my physician. This type of doctor-patient relationship is not common, but because of his influence and example, I will strive to give my patients the same dedication and level of care he afforded me.

Author’s Note: the subject of this story is now an Endocrine fellow at Mass General Hospital, where he is a colleague of Dr. Wolfsdorf.

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Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 35 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for most of her career. Her two sons were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner. Susan has published numerous articles on the topic of diabetes for patients and health care professionals. She has committed her career goals to helping patients with diabetes stay well through education.

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