Learning to Coexist

Allan M. Block, MD

January 21, 2022

There's another doctor with whom I've referred patients, back and forth, for the last 20 years. I think he's good at his job and assume he feels the same way about me. We aren't social friends, but chat briefly when we run into each other at the hospital, or store, or local restaurants.

Last week I was at the hospital to read EEGs, and happened to see him in the doctor's parking lot. We wished each other a happy new year, talked briefly about a few mutual patients, and then went our separate ways.

As he pulled out, I noticed his car had a bumper sticker for a cause I strongly disagree with. I mean, 180 degrees opposed.

Suddenly, I didn't want to ever refer to him again. Why should I support him? He's the enemy.

Why should I help him out by referring patients?

But then I had to stop. Isn't this 2022? Aren't we supposed to be in a civilized world? This isn't my tribe versus your tribe, my cave versus your cave. The closest we're supposed to come to direct conflict with others is the "us versus them" world of professional and college sports.

I hope.

Aren't I supposed to be better than this? Isn't learning to coexist the whole point of the playground as a kid (besides burning off energy and giving the teacher a break)? Isn't the idea behind civilization to get along with each other, accept our differences as "agreeing to disagree," and work together? Like Hamilton and Jefferson, or Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill?

Refusing to work with another competent physician because I disagree with their personal, religious, or political beliefs is just plain stupid.

Politicians and pundits try to convince us that people who disagree with us are the enemy, but that's horse hockey. The truth is that the majority of people out there, regardless of personal beliefs, are decent, hardworking, and just trying to support their families like I am mine.

Later that week I had a patient who clearly needed the other doctor's expertise, and I gave her his name and phone number. She asked if I'd send my own family to him, and I said, unequivocally, "yes" (actually I have).

Because, at the end of the day, we're all people, along on the same ride. To not send a patient to him wouldn't be in their best interest, which is what I'm supposed to be watching out for.

Not only that, but if I don't refer just because I disagree with him as a person, then I've become the problem and not the solution.

Because I, and everyone else, have to try to be better than that.

Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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