In the United Kingdom, the iconic white coat worn by physicians for over a century has met its end. Citing the tendency to harbor infection, the government has started to phase them out.
Here in Southern California, where casual wear is standard for many physicians, the white coat is an endangered species. Ironically, at my local farmers’ market there is a woman selling organic cures for illnesses; she is a naturopathic physician and invariably wears her embroidered, knee-length white coat while standing amidst her jars of thyme and huckleberry. The same long white coats are worn by cosmeticians and medial assistants at cosmetic centers everywhere.
Why is it that just as physicians are tossing their coats, ancillary health care providers are donning theirs?
Growing up, our family physicians were always dressed impeccably, and always in white. In medical school it was a hard-earned honor to wear the short white coat on the wards. As a physician I will only see patients while I am dressed properly: a shirt, tie, shined shoes that click on the marble floors, and a long white coat.
Do patients actually care if their doctor wears a white coat? Should they care?
The “man with blue skin” actually has argyria. He developed it by drinking a homemade brew of colloidal silver, believed by some to be a panacea. The silver permanently deposits around sweat glands giving the skin a blue-grey hue. There is no treatment for it, and it is as impressive in person as it is in the video.
Fortunately argyria is rare nowadays in part because of better regulation of silver-containing tonics. Blue patients do still sometimes walk into dermatology clinics, often to the dismay of the nursing staff who rush to get oxygen before they realize what the patient actually has.
I also had a purple patient recently, but that’s a story for another day.
At a recent dermatology meeting Dr. Christopher Zachary, a well know cosmetic and laser dermatologist and department chair, warned that the dermatology profession risks losing its credibility by promoting devices that just don’t work. Zachary cautioned doctors to be wary about purchasing devices that are popular but unproven.
In buying a new laser, doctors “can spend $200,000 to make patients look better. Some of them work; most of them don’t,” he told the panel, held at UCI. Zachary told the panel that, although many lasers and similar devices produce little, if any, actual change in patients, doctors still make presentations at medical conferences about the new technology…. “There’s a problem here. I go to lecture after lecture, and I think that if someone went to the podium with a carousel and the slides slipped out, they wouldn’t know which was the ‘pre’ picture and which was ‘post,” he said.
Some plastic surgeons … are seeing a drop-off in patient consultations, which is ‘usually a little bit of a precursor to lighter surgical calendars maybe 45 to 60 days out.’ … [B]reast-implant maker Mentor Corp. in Santa Barbara, Calif., says the surgeons … have noticed a drop in patient interest.
As long as the economy continues to slow, discretionary spending for cosmetic procedures will likely tighten. A potential benefit? You might be able to get in to see your physician sooner for that rash.
Dr. Benabio grew up in a little Italian neighborhood in Providence, RI. An Ivy League graduate, he was also ranked number one in his medical school class. While in medical school, he served as class president and as president of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, to which he was elected in his third year. He also served as a member of the North Carolina Medical Society House of Delegates. In his final year, he was honored with the prestigious Faculty Award, the R.W. Pritchard History of Medicine Award, and the Excellence in Dermatology Award. In his dermatology residency in Southern California, he served as chief resident.
Dr. Benabio is board certified in dermatology, is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and practices in San Diego, CA. He also lobbies for the American Academy of Dermatology Association in Washington, DC. He is a member of a number of professional organizations including the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American Society for Lasers in Medicine and Surgery.
He and his wife live in downtown San Diego. His interests include bodybuilding, blogging, and politics.
He can be reached at Dr.Benabio [at] TheDermBlog [dot] com.