The Focused Docs and the Patient

It was six docs of Medicine
To wellness each was purposed,
Who went to see the Patient
(Though all of them were focused),
That each by observation
Might satisfy their locus.
The First approached the Patient,
And happening to fall
Against his breast and heartbeat,
At once began to bawl,
“God bless me! but the Patient
Is very like a HEART!”
The Second, examining blood results,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
Cholesterol, Glucose, Creatinine,
To me ’tis mighty plain,
This wonder of a Patient
Is purely ENDOCRINE!”

And so these docs of Medicine
Debated loud and long,
Each in their own expertise
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

The Focused Docs and the Patient
Adapted from The Blind Men and the Elephant, John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

Published June 3, 2024, on the Old Lean Dude blog.


The Fourth reached out below the thigh,
To feel what there could be
“What most this wondrous soul is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he
“’Tis clear enough the Patient
Is very like a KNEE!”

The Third approached the Patient,
And happening to gaze
Within the patients fusty mouth,
Thus boldly up and says,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Patient
Is very like a TOOTH!”

As years roll on, I’m noticing more parts of me breaking down: Teeth, eyes, knees, cardiovascular, stomach—the list keeps getting longer, as does the list of docs I see. I’m blessed to be living in an area with the world’s finest medical care and lucky that healthcare innovation (and Medicare) have made it possible for me to keep doing what I love to do, and yet I can’t help but notice that there are a few breakdowns also in our systems of medical care. While our providers share the highest purpose—to make the patient well—they’re often burdened by systems that make it difficult to see the whole patient.

Recently, while rebounding from my second knee replacement in 2024 (kudos to the greatest doc and hospital team), I was inspired to compose a whimsical parody of a 19th-century poem penned by John Godfrey Saxe. The moral: As we focus more on the parts, we may miss the whole. Enjoy.

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the wrist,
Said, “E’en the greenest doc
Can tell what this resembles most
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of a Patient
Is very like a VEIN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the patient to measure,
Than placing a cuff on the patient’s arm,
And listening to his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Patient
Is very like BLOOD PRESSURE!”