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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Column: Finally, doctors who know me

We nod our heads and promise to be healthy and safe but on the inside, we laugh at the silliness of the advice the doctor is reciting to us off his little clipboard. Exiting the cold, sterile world of the doctor’s office and re-entering the world of stressful academics, fast food, fist bumps and keg stands is a sure way to wipe any memory of the advice that boring doctor gave you.

Whenever I’m at the doctor’s office, I’m rushed through some quick coughs and head turns, and then rushed out after being reminded about my co-pay.

While I was writing a news article last week about men’s health at UC Davis, it dawned on me that the reason why I didn’t like doctors wasn’t because of the dreary atmosphere, but because my doctor has absolutely no idea who I am. Sure, he remembers my name, remembers what I looked like five years ago, remembers to ask how school is going and chuckles when I tell him I don’t blaze that often. Besides the rehearsed banter, I am just a series of statistics, charts and dosages.

What we need are doctors who know who we are; doctors who know about our lives, what sports we play, family histories, our social lifestyles, etc. This kind of care will not only help doctors make better decisions about how to treat current conditions, but will also help doctors spot potential future problems, and plan for them now.

Obviously experts have thought of this predicament as well. And, like a deus ex machina, the Men’s Health Program was born into the UC Davis Health System. According to their press release, they specialize in nearly everything I believed my primary care physician lacked. Every patient in the new program undergoes a thorough medical history and lifestyle questionnaire to improve the level of care he is receiving. Not only do the doctors here want medical history, they also want to know how you live your life: do you play sports?  Which ones?  Do you drink? Do you smoke?  Weed?  Casual sexual encounters?  With strippers? In Europe?

They want to know everything. Every detail you tell them is just one more weapon in the arsenal of knowledge the doctors will unleash upon your maladies.

Since nearly all men’s health programs I have heard of cater to older men, I figured the same for this one.

I called Alan Shindel, a urologist in the UC Davis Health System, and asked him some questions about the program, jokingly asking how far into their AARP membership men should be before signing up for the program. His answer surprised me.

“No man is not a candidate,” he said. “Men live shorter lives than women. Good medical advice early on can keep you healthy and sexually active into old age.”  

Well, hot damn! Where do I sign up?

One of Shindel’s co-workers, James Kiley, an internal medicine physician, summed up the predicament.

“Men tend to ignore health problems until it’s too late,” he said. Getting good medical care can help men live the lives they want to live.”  

My suspicions about private care physicians giving their patients very little time were confirmed when Shindel informed me that the average visit time with a private care physician is only about 15 minutes.

“There is little or no time for preventative maintenance,” he said.

That is exactly the kind of problem that the Men’s Health Program seeks to remedy. Right from the start, the program is intended to make you at ease.

“The program has been designed to create a place where men can feel comfortable, where they can discuss issues about their health that can potentially have long-term ramifications for their longevity and quality of life,” said Shindel. “The goal is for them to be able to stay active and healthy well into old age.”

This program sounds pretty amazing, and it’s all happening right here at UC Davis. You don’t even need to be a current UC Davis patient to sign up, and even better, visits are covered by most insurance plans.

So, if you ever want to shed some unwanted poundage before beach season, they can help with that. If you have a hernia from lifting your girlfriend’s five suitcases in and out of the car for a two-day vacation, the doctors can help with that, too. And if you ever have impaired memory and a strange rash from that steamy night at the Best Western with a goddess named Strawberry Daiquiri, they can probably help with that as well.

You can make appointments through their website, ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/menshealth or call (800) 4-UCDAVIS (482-3248).

HUDSON LOFCHIE can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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