A couple of weeks ago my 84-year-old mother paid a 25-dollar cancellation fee because a doctor’s office claimed she did not cancel her appointment within 24 hours of the scheduled visit. I personally called that doctor’s office and cancelled her appointment 48 hours before the appointment, and I am still fighting to get her 25 dollars back. The 25 dollars is obviously not the issue, it is the principle that she was first improperly charged, and second, felt beaten down enough to feel it was easier to pay it, than fight for it.
I can tell you that what I write here and have decided to share openly with you may be met with objection from my husband in fear that I hang my heart openly on my sleeve. But it is time to tell this story, for a reason. I want you to know that if you have been ignored by or treated poorly with disrespect by any doctor or doctor’s office, You are Not Alone.
The Conventional practice of medicine, and the entire system that supports it, is hurting everyone, even good doctors. There are few young, bright and spirited doctors who will keep fighting like I did. Most will end up succumbing to the usual and expected. And most new physicians will follow the leader, developing the same habits as those before them. Many become bitter and burnt out before even finishing their training. And in the end, this effects the care you receive and explains the lack of compassion, creativity and motivation to give you what you truly need and deserve.
Before I became a doctor, I envisioned what it would be like. I imagined being like the doctor in the movie “Doc Hollywood” with Michael J. Fox. I envisioned sitting with patients in an office, unhurriedly, listening to their needs, examining them, determining if any additional tests were needed, prescribing when needed and always giving healthful advice on how to prevent illness. I imagined moving from room to room with a skip in my step being connected to my patients and knowing them as whole individuals. I always thought I would have the time and energy to stop off at a patient’s home after work because they were elderly or too ill to make it to the office. I pictured that I would be an important person in their lives and help them through both emotional and physical challenges. And that I would see them through their entire lives and eventually care for their children and grandchildren.
When I decided to go to medical school, I expected to work hard. I knew I was going to be tired and pushed, but I never thought any profession that cares for the health of others would purposely treat others with disrespect, require unhealthy, grueling, and unreasonable requirements, and do so while padding their own pockets at the expense of others.
- Here is a true story. Every word. Nothing exaggerated. -
Sharing this story will help you understand why Conventional Medicine is in such disarray and why you are finding such dissatisfaction with it today.
There is a little dirty secret about how resident doctors are used, and how Independent Physicians financially benefit from the resident’s services. Resident doctors are like cash cow free labor to private physician offices. These supervising physicians turn around and bill for the services the residents provide. The more patients a resident doctor sees, the more money the Independent Supervising Physician collects for his own personal income, without ever personally seeing the patients. Though the supervising physician is supposedly in charge, it is a rare occurrence that a resident asks for assistance from the supervising physician.
Of course, the residents are not paid for the work they do outside of the very small stipend the hospital pays them, even though the hospital is actually paid by the government far more than the amount they pay the resident for his/her work. It is a big business based on big money, with the resident being played as pawns in the hands of the controlling masters.
You would think that residents would be respected and appreciated under these circumstances… but it is actually the opposite. Residents are pushed to emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, and even mistreated, disrespected and abused. “I went through it, so now you have to go through it” is the attitude of many Supervising Physicians in training programs.
I have never shared my story with the public before. So here it goes.
During the first year of my residency, things went rather smoothly in terms of mistreatment. It was a tiny residency in Tampa, with only 4 residents. I purposely chose a small residency thinking that I would have the opportunity for more direct training. There was one primary Supervising Physician and everyone was quite nice to each other. The 4 of us shared the office and hospital responsibilities along with the Physician himself, which was very doable, and actually quite “cushy”. There were, however, 2 major problems that could not be tolerated. The first was that there was no formal training at all. And sadly, and secondly, as much as I actually liked the Supervising Physician as a person, he had a drinking problem, and was frequently under the influence of alcohol during work hours, both in the office and the hospital.
I knew I needed to get out of this program as quickly as possible, but changing residencies is highly frowned upon since hospitals receive government stipends to “train” residents, and the Supervising Physicians bill for all of the work done by the residents and bring in quite a hefty income for the physician. Obviously when a resident leaves a program, the hospital, and the Supervising Physicians’ income is significantly reduced.
Though I had believed a small residency would be best for me, I started rethinking this belief and decided maybe a larger residency would be better for more structured training. But residencies aren’t on every street corner, so my options were limited if I wanted to stay in the home my husband and I had just purchased in Sarasota, Florida where we planned to live and practice medicine. I contacted a “friend” who was in my medical school graduating class, who was doing a residency within a 90-minute drive of my home and asked him how his residency was going. I had no reason to distrust him. To me it was a simple question and one I would have been completely forthcoming with had the shoes been on my feet. He expressed glowing accolades of his residency and encouraged me to apply there. He was quite insistent that I come on board. So, I applied to this new program to complete the last two years of my required residency. (By the way, after I left the first program, another resident followed in my footsteps, and the Supervising Physician was dismissed.)
- New Chapter -
The very first day of my new residency I knew I was in trouble. I was informed of my duties that were far different from what my “friend” had shared with me. I later discovered that he had betrayed me, lying intentionally to get me to come to this residency to help reduce the work load placed on all the current residents. I approached him with his betrayal, and he actually had the nerve to admit it, thinking nothing was wrong with it since “all residencies are bad.”
I know I am one of the hardest working individuals alive, but my new call schedule was something I immediately recognized was nothing short of abusive. It was too late. I had already signed a contract to stay for a year. Though the program was twice the size of my first program, the residents were divided up between FOUR independent doctors’ offices. FOUR doctors were “getting in” on the benefits of 8 residents, with 2 residents assigned to each office. The call was covered only by the residents, without a single minute supported by any of the 4 Supervising Physicians. (How convenient.) The on-call duties consisted of being on call for both the office and the hospital 7 days on and 7 days off. This included doing ALL admissions to the hospital 24 hours a day, arriving at the hospital within 4 hours of all standard admissions and within 2 hours for all ICU admissions, as well as performing all of our normal patient care responsibilities during the day no matter when we last found an hour or two to sleep. This did not include the extensive duties of whatever specialty rotation we were working in each month. Every other week it was common to barely survive on 2 - 3 hours of broken sleep a night while working 18 to 20 hour days, 7 days in a row… every other week. We called the program “The Dark Side”.
In addition, there was a class of residents ahead of me, finishing their last year of residency. They shared in delivering additional abuse as well. Why not? That’s what they were being taught to do by the Supervising Physicians - “Abuse Thy Fellow Colleague.” The residents in the year ahead of me would purposely assign additional work to our schedules, lightening their own load, expressing that it was a “rite of passage” just as the Supervising Physicians taught by poor example.
Unfortunately, my story isn’t much different than many other doctors I have talked with over the years. We all knew it was a blatant misuse of power. But not something anyone would dare speak out against. We all had to pull up our big girl and boy underwear and bear through it just like everyone before us and everyone who comes in behind us.
It is this very acceptance that it is okay to mistreat innocent, young doctors that serves as the floor of a very flawed foundation. It is responsible for the earliest development of attitudes filled with disappointment that places a strain on the practice of caring for human beings. And it results in less compassionate care, and for some arrogant physicians, a feeling of superiority and power over patients.
Fortunately for me … something even worse happened in my residency that saved my career.
I was assigned to work with one of the hospital’s Otolaryngologists. And that is when it went as far as I was willing to take.This 5-foot 3-inch, greater than 350-pound pig, (who the residents called “The Smurf” because he wore blue scrubs every day), tried to sexually assault me. He literally put his arms around me and pulled me up against his fat disgusting body and told me how good I felt. I quickly pulled away and recoiled like a frightened little girl who was under the control of someone who held my future career in his hands. He went on shortly after that to require I sit in his office while he urinated in the bathroom less than 10 feet from where I sat, with the door open. I asked to be dismissed and his response was to question if I had a “hot date that night” additionally asking if I was “ovulating or something”. He released me and when I got to my car, I sat there still, feeling shaken by the experience. I couldn’t start my car. I called David instead and told him what happened. Though David wanted to drive immediately to pick me up, just talking to him, and being assured by him that I would never have to go back there, was enough to return my strength and drive home. David spent the evening writing a letter to the Program Director delivering it the next morning in person. I never had to return to that fat Smurf’s office, or see him ever again.
Within a couple of days, the Hospital Program’s secretary called me and told me that this Sexual Abuser had been turned in by numerous nurses in the past, and had been reprimanded numerous times as well. She also told me that this doctor put a letter in my file claiming the event had never happened and I made it up. The CEO of the hospital talked with me and apologized for this physician’s actions. I don’t know if anything ever happened to him, because I wasn’t going to tolerate it anymore. I wanted out, as quickly as possible, and without damage to my record. That wasn’t going to be easy. With the hospitals formal apology, the guarantee that I would never have to spend a moment in Fat Smurf’s presence again, I decided to stay put until I could find a way out, or just quit.
Basically, I felt lost, deceived and disappointed in the entire medical establishment, and wasn’t sure I could trust anyone. And then my mother and sister had a really good idea. They recommended that I contact my Alma Mater, The University of New England, College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Maine, where I had nothing but good experiences as a medical student. The medical school also ran a Family Practice residency serving the people of the community, as well as providing care to the undergraduate and graduate programs of the University. But I worried… if they even had an opening, would they dare take a chance on a “loser” like me?
I ventured forward and called them by phone. Lord have Mercy! They were going to have an opening just 2 months away! They might have been a little weary to invite me for an interview due to my already having been part of two different residencies, but they took a chance on me and had me come to visit. We hit it off instantly, and I was invited into their program to complete the rest of my 3 years of residency. It was the best thing that ever happened to me in my history of medical education. Returning to UNE refed my desire to be that “Good Doctor” that I had always dreamed of being. The training was superior and though the requirements were challenging for some, for me, having come out of an abusive program, UNE’s requirements were a breeze. I ran circles around all the other residents and there truly was a skip in my step.
The Medical Director at the time is/was an amazing physician / mentor, as was the Supervising Physician for all of our hospital work. I loved my work there and never minded a single night of call, actually enjoying every experience I had there. They allowed me to practice holistically and actually wanted their residents to do so. Being a leading Osteopathic University that also ran a residency for Neuromuscular Medicine, (Osteopathic Manipulation), my desire to practice with integrative knowledge was welcomed. It was far from usual, but finally I got back to where I belonged. I went from dreading my existence to being excited at the start of each day. Even with David and I living over 1000 miles apart, I was finally being nourished, appreciated, and valued. And I felt like I was caring for patients properly.
Dr. Craig Wallingford, and his wife, Gail
Toward the end of my residency, the Medical Director commented on how I was especially good with caring for the elderly. And so, that was all I needed to hear to be encouraged to go on with further training and complete an additional Geriatric Fellowship. Fortunately, being a Fellow is quite a bit different than being a Resident, and not subjected to the same treatment. However, I did have one physician, who criticized me for “spending too much time with patients”. He even went to the extent of stating that I “would never make it in medicine.”
Fortunately, my Geriatric fellowship was run by an older, wiser, very experienced physician who told me not to listen to this doctor, and to continue practicing the way I believed was right.
So, you see, the very doctors who want to provide you more than the standard of care, like me, are not supported. Worse, we are criticized, ridiculed and even threatened.
I still feel that admiration and appreciation for the couple of physicians who saved my career. However, over the next 15 years following completion of my Geriatric fellowship, I discovered that the physician who said I “would never make it in medicine” was actually right in one way. I couldn’t make it in Conventional Medicine! But he was sorely wrong in criticizing the way I believed medicine should be practiced. Had he been a positive force to a young developing doctor, he would have used his knowledge to help me find a way to make my personal method of patient care successful for me. Just because he felt it was ok to push patients through 10-minute office visits and even shorter hospital visits, didn’t mean it was right for me, or my patients. But this wasn’t his goal. His goal was to criticize me so that I would conform to the traditional method of practice.
I would actually love to see this physician today and see who between us, is actually more successful. I know who it is, and it is surely not him.
I know most young doctors are not nearly as resilient as I have been. It is so much easier to just fit in and do what everyone else is doing. It wasn’t easy, and there were plenty of tears along the way. But I never gave up and I never distrusted my belief that many patients can’t be properly cared for in limited 10-minute office visits and that there is a such thing as making a real difference in people’s lives.
Since I joined the medical community in Sarasota, almost TWENTY concierge practices have opened. These are practices where physicians have decided against accepting insurances and limiting their entire patient panel to 250 patients. They offer extended office visits, safe and comprehensive hospital care, and work FOR you instead of for an insurance company that pays you by quantity instead of quality. Both of my parents have a concierge doctor. A great one. Worth every penny, even though they have excellent medical insurance. This is what it has come to.
As for me, I have successfully been able to maintain acceptance of insurance for my conventional geriatric practice. It’s not exactly conventional when I admit spending an hour with each patient. I’ve been able to succeed with this because I have no overhead, by caring for patients while they are in rehab after a hospitalization. The other key to Leggett Medical Group’s success, is the fact that I have amazing help from 3 nurse practitioners who help me provide care to these patients, staffing the facility 6 days a week. I have found nurse practitioners to be awesome and wanting to spend more quality time with patients. It was hard finding the “conventional” practice that would work with my ideals and requirements, but fortunately it came to be and is highly successful allowing me additional time and freedom to focus on another important group of people who need more than a brush off by Conventional Medical doctors.
Yes, I’m talking about Midlife Women, who are like me! Smart, wise, persistent, and don’t accept being ignored or mistreated. My work with Midlife Women has become my passion because I see Midlife Women as I saw myself 18 years ago being mistreated and unsupported in an environment I had no control over, or way to escape.
Conventional Medicine is so far behind in their acceptance of Bioidentical Hormones and many other Functional Medical practices. I know how sheep follow sheep, and understand that it is easier as a whole to be a sheep instead of the one who stands up and asks questions. I have also seen far too many doctors work to maintain power and prestige. They will refuse to listen to patients, ridicule with condescending remarks and rolling of their eyes. I have even seen doctors dismiss patients from their practice, if they refuse to comply with the doctor’s methods of treatment. All of this is unacceptable to me and only drives me to push harder to help Midlife Women even more.
Conventional Medicine also offers no time for preventive counseling, listening to patient’s multiple complex issues, and helping them come to a workable solution that is suitable for their unique needs. Teaching patients how to better manage their medical conditions is non-existent, nor is offering the support and guidance patients need in order to master their health needs and concerns. These things simply do not exist in Conventional Medicine.
Functional Medicine VS Conventional Medicine
I am asked fairly frequently if I will start a concierge practice in Sarasota for women. But for me… I know I was meant to reach far more people, literally woman across the globe, instead of focusing on a local concierge practice for a limited few. Though it has been tempting, I am keenly aware that it will take me away from my goals. I am certain that my basic personality drives a large part of my goals, but mixed with my personal experiences and struggles with Conventional medicine, and my undying interest in helping Midlife Women who have so much to give and live for, though may be currently ignored and ridiculed, is really where the future of the Women’s Midlife Specialist lies.
Though I have been practicing integrative medicine for 18 years now, I actually started reaching out to women as the Women’s Midlife Specialist in 2012. I had the opportunity to expand my reach to women outside of my town in 2016 when Brian Tracy asked me to write a chapter about Midlife Women’s Hormone needs in a book titled Success Manifesto. It was then that I decided I needed to design the highest quality Bioidentical Hormones a woman could trust, and obtain over the counter, without a prescription. This came to fruition in June of 2017, only 7 short months ago. At the same time, I also released a collection of Hormone Videos in my Hormone Library, all free for viewing, to help women understand the truth about their hormones and what their hormones really mean for their long-term health, happiness and relationships. In the last 7 months since the first Young Hormones bottle was produced, our line of Organic Bioidentical Hormones has been sold and delivered to women living in every state of America. Hundreds of women are currently using one or more Young Hormones products and living more fruitful and fulfilling lives, safely and confidently.
I refuse to allow my past trials and tribulations with the Conventional Medical system interfere or intimidate me. And this is my goal for you too. I never want you to feel alone like I did when I felt lost and stuck in the system. The Women’s Midlife Specialist is for You. We are here to help you when you find yourself stuck in a system that is not supporting you.
And that’s why I am also going to get my mother’s 25 dollars back!
DR. KAREN LEGGETT
Dr. Karen Leggett, is a board certified physician in family medicine and geriatrics. She spent the last 18 years helping and supporting midlife women in balancing their sex (reproductive) hormones, stress (adrenal) hormones, thyroid (metabolic) hormones, and gut (digestive) hormones so they can regain their young little chick spirits.
"I practice what I teach! I know that we women control the aura of our environment! How we act is dependent upon how we feel, so you have to feel great to really achieve your goals! I had to learn this the hard way, but I am so thankful now for the suffering that I went through because it led me to my passion today - to help YOU." Dr. Karen Legget