I knew at age 11 that I wanted to be a doctor. From that point on, I’ve never thought about doing anything else with my life. My father was my role model, a physician who was loved by his patients because of the time he spent with them and the relationships he built with them.
Being a doctor has always fulfilled the part of me that enjoys learning and discovering. But the greatest satisfaction I’ve gained from being a doctor began when I was a third year medical student. After spending the first two years of medical school memorizing facts upon facts, in your third year you start spending a lot of time with patients, to begin learning HOW to be a doctor. Over those first few years of learning you are assigned fewer patients to care for than those doctors who are further along in their training. As a result, you get to spend more time with each patient than you’ll ever likely be able to again. Spending TIME with patients, listening to patients, BEING with patients; that was what made you a doctor, and it was what patients deserved. It was what my father embodied in his practice.
Fast forward 20+ years and where are we now? Doctors have to see more and more patients for shorter and shorter periods of time, working in a system that rewards high volumes over quality time, and our patients’ care suffers. Government and insurance companies tell doctors and patients what they can or can’t do. Doctors are forced to follow more and more useless, time consuming regulations that eat away at the most important thing we have to offer our patients — our TIME. I’ve tried my best over 20+ years of being a doctor to remain true to my calling, but as I contemplate the remainder of my career, I know that our current system will not allow me to be the kind of doctor I want to be; the kind of doctor that 11 year-old kid dreamed of being; the kind of doctor my patients deserve.
I believe there is a better way ahead for us, and it does not involve the government or insurance companies. It is a return to a direct relationship between doctor and patient, with no third party getting between us. And so my own medical journey is taking a u-turn back to where I began, when doctors and patients spent time with each other and medical care wasn’t rushed. I hope that you will join me on this journey. I will always put you first — it’s what you deserve.
Peter Lehmann MD is a Board-Certified Family Physician who has practiced in Kitsap County since 1996. Prior to that he proudly served six years as a Family Physician in the United States Army Medical Corps. He is a graduate of the George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Lehmann spends his “free time” with his wife, five children, three cats and a dog.