Dr. Checklist

dr-checklistIt is nice to have wish lists in life, but when it comes to our doctors it is important to get not only what we wish for, but also what we need. Therefore, I think it is important for us to have a doctor checklist. I’ve been seeing doctors since I was five years old, and I am now 33. I am big on first impressions and also the connection between the doctor and the patient. Doctors can be just as conditional as food and places, just because one person loves a doctor, doesn’t mean everyone will.

I have seen two different doctors this year, both at a spine center. The first one was the chief of the spine center. My experience with him was very honest and direct. He walked into the patient room, looked at the MRI for my back, studied the images, and due to the severity of my spines issues, the first word out of his mouth was, “Damn.”

Several months later I saw a doctor in the pain management department. This doctor had reviewed my medical information prior to coming into the patient room. He sat on a chair in front of me, looked at me and said, “Well, you look great.” I responded, “Well, my insides don’t.”


An MRI of Valen’s kidneys prior to removal

This is something that PKD patients often deal with. We may look healthy on the outside but our insides are very different. This makes it a complicated journey for us. We get, “You look so healthy,” or, “You’re the picture of health,” or, “You had a transplant, you would never know.” While people may think these are compliments, it may be frustrating for the patient. Yes, we are grateful that our looks don’t equate to what we’ve endured or maybe we don’t look as bad as we feel, but this makes it hard for those around us to understand what we deal with day in and day out.


An x-ray of Valen’s spine

The latest pain management doctor I saw told me I was doing a great job with my back. I didn’t learn anything too new but I was greatly impressed and inspired by him. He had such compassion and empathy. He took his time with me and was in no rush to leave. He was a breath of fresh air and a great example of what all of us patients desire and need. This doctor inspired me to write this post about the importance of finding exceptional doctors. They are out there!

I want a team of doctors with great knowledge and compassion who can empathize with what I endure on a daily basis. I am very particular about what doctors I go to. It is our choice and we need to choose wisely because our health is partially in their hands and we want someone we can trust.

My doctor checklist would require that they be:

  • Experienced and intelligent in their specialty
  • Able to educate me on how to be the best patient possible
  • Compassionate, empathetic and attentive
  • Understanding of the fact that I have several major health issues, and so should be willing to look at the big picture when caring for me and be open to working with my other doctors
  • Understanding of the fact that my pain is real and not to be underestimated; even though I look healthy, they need to believe what I say
  • Patient, sincere and willing to spend quality time with me at my appointments

Thank you to all my amazing doctors who possess these important qualities, to those who helped save my life and those who help me lead the healthiest life possible. You are a big part of my journey and I appreciate you caring for my health and me.

Do you have a favorite doctor you would like to give a shout-out to? What is it about him or her that makes them special? What is on your doctor checklist?


  1. carmen reinke

    EXCELLENT article!! I can relate all too well. I have 5 specialists plus my pcp- i see almost monthly with my complex health issues. It’s exhausting! I’m looking into getting a case mgr to help collaborate things.

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you very much, Carmen. I’m glad you enjoyed this article and could relate. Coordinating our health can be exhausting and then we have to endure our health issues on top of it. Good luck with getting a case manager. Please let me know how that goes and if you find it helpful. Wishing you all the best!


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