Sarah Palin has received much deserved criticism on everything from her position of issues, to her lavish wardrobe, to her lack of regular reading, but on election day I thought I would give her a single point of praise. Palin’s so called release of her medical records showed that her primary care provider is a family physician and this is praiseworthy.
The “release of records” came last night in the form of a two page letter by Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, a family physician employed by Providence Alaska Medical Center who was the 2002 Family Physician of the Year as named by the American Academy of Family Physicians. The letter itself is fairly unrevealing–Palin has sought care almost entirely for women’s health/pregnancy related issues and does not take any medications on a regular basis. I’ve written dozens of letters like this myself over the years and the goal is to say the bare bones minimum because from the physician’s perspective–it’s none of the reader’s damn business.
Dr. Baldwin-Johnson notes that she has not performed an EKG or liver function tests on the Governor as, “it is not routine to perform screening tests such as electrocardiograms of liver enzyme panels on young healthy women with no risk factors.” It appears Governor Palin received solid evidence based health care and did not insist upon a lavish “executive physical” the kind of which I reported just a few days ago.
The family doctor indicates the VP candidate saw her for pregnancy related issues and not an obstetrician. Historically, managing normal pregnancies has been one of the core arenas for the family physician, but has seen a decline in recent years due to the impact on physician’s personal lives with the 3am delivery, increasing malpractice rates, and, frankly, patients’ perceptions that they need an obstetrician-gynecologist to manage their pregnancy. Currently, approximately one-third of family doctors delivery babies though all are still trained during residency.
Family physicians as obstetrical providers have much to offer their patients. Family physicians tend to offer more personalized attention to their pregnant patients through lower volumes. Most plan to personally attend their patient’s delivery instead of whoever is the doc on call as has become the practice of many high volume obstetrical practices. Family physicians also care for newborns and treat most pediatric conditions as a general pediatician. With the family physician it is one stop shopping; it is continuity of care at its best. There are no gaps in the babys doctor’s knowledge of the mothers obstetrical history because the same doctor has been there for all of it.
There you have it. A point for Palin. Time to go vote.
The Country Doc
(In the interest of disclosure I should note that I am a family physician that practices obstetrics, a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, and Chairman of the Department of Perinatal Services at another Providence Health System Hospital, so yeah, I’m pretty biased when it comes to this.)