He was the most respected man in our training program. The oldest cardiologist at our institution, gruff, never afraid to shy away from a four-letter word to make his point, and with the uncanny ability to diagnose critical aortic stenosis (pulsus tardus et parvus) or insufficiency (bisferiens pulse) by placing his hands on his patient’s pulse. No echocardiogram was necessary. His incredible knack for inductive reasoning of associated diagnoses was unparalleled. His breadth of clinical experience and expertise unequalled. I had always held him in my highest esteem – a real model to follow.
So after returning to that institution of higher learning after fellowship training and getting settled in my new routine as a young staff physician, I headed to lunch with an entourage of medical students and residents. It was then that I saw him, my medical idol, in line with a burger and fries, and a tall Coke.
“Hello, Dr. B., how have you been?”
“Hell, just fine, Wes.” It was then I noticed his tray.
Smiling, I quipped, “Dr. B., aren’t those things bad for you?”
“Well, shit, Wes,” he smiled with a twinkle in his eye, “... I look at this way. I have a 50-50 chance of dying of cancer or heart disease... and I’d much rather die of something I understand!”
Brilliant, as always.
So now when I have a burger or steak with friends at a social gathering and am confronted by the competitive guest eager to restate to me the risk factors for heart disease ad nauseam, my response is simple: “I’d much rather die of something I understand.”
Thanks, Dr. B.