Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Secret Lives of Pediatricians

When I first thought about creating my blog, I had to make a very important decision: use my real name, or hide my identity?

Some medical bloggers, such as Flea or Dr. Dork, prefer to stay secretive. Their nom de plumes write passionate about controversial issues, or reveal much about the men behind the facade. Others, such as Dr. Bryan Vartabedian at Parenting Solved, proudly post as their professional personae (yes, much like Dork, I like alliteration), preferring to speak with a calm, informative voice to the layperson. And some, such as Dr. Mary Johnson at Dr. J's HouseCalls, disregard these rules entirely, with blogs so personal and pointed they simply wouldn't work anonymously.

I knew my blog potentially would fall across all of these categories. My Katrina Story, for instance, can't be told without very personal and revealing details. Besides, a well-written blog can be an marketable asset for a practice, a source of information for patients. On the other hand, those same patients might be turned off by a particularly provocative tirade, or details of my personal life. I thought for a long time about what path to take.

I finally decided to go to the middle. So even though you all know me as "Dr. Scott," I've left enough clues on "Just Practicing" and in my posts that it would not be very hard to find out my Secret Identity. A couple of well-targeted Google searches should do it rather easily.

Now you might ask, why not just come out with it? Why make the general public work for it?

First, I do make reference in my posts to my wife and children, and the Internet can sometimes be an abusive place; I don't want to bring them any unwanted advances.

Second, and more importantly, is that I am a pediatrician.

It's part of my job to foster the wholesome development of children. And what better way to encourage healthy behaviors than model them? So, at least in the public sphere, I have to be careful of my image, whether online, or in the local Walmart.

When Pee-Wee Herman was caught, shall we say, partaking of some adult entertainment, the uproar was not because he was famous. He was the famous host of a children's television show. In theory, what the actor known as Paul Reubens did on his own time shouldn't have mattered. He didn't go to an X-rated movie dressed in his character's red bow tie and too-short pants. Pee-Wee Herman never hinted at such subject matter on his Saturday morning show (not even in a subtle, above-the-kids-heads kind of joke). Nevertheless, adults were now uncomfortable having him entertain their children, and so he disappeared for years.

In an even more dramatic example, the fledgling PBS Sprout network fired its eveningtime host last year. Sprout is a cable/satellite network with programming exclusively for the toddler and preschool crowd: Bob the Builder, Teletubbies, Barney, Dragon Tales, the whiny brat Caillou, and the like. Word leaked out that Melanie Martinez, of their "Good Night Show" segments, had acted in two commercial parodies six years before. The films, called "Technical Virgin," poked fun at abstinence-only messages for teens. No pornography, nothing illegal or even risque, just raunchy humor. Not only were the "Technical Virgin" clips far outside of wide release, but it's safe to say that the young viewers of PBS Sprout were unlikely to encounter this aspect of Miss Melanie, even accidentally in the wider world--unless the major media started making it a big deal, or these toddlers knew how to use YouTube. All the same, this unsavory past was enough to kick her off the show. (As a side note, PBS doesn't seem to mind that George Carlin narrates some of the Thomas the Tank Engine episodes. Perhaps they have a different standard for voice actors? Or just famous ones?)

I don't think I lead a particularly immoral life, but I do want the freedom to post about some of my interests, and receive comments back.

I like the occasional premium ethanol-based spirit. For the holidays my wife gave me a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin. The word intoxicating was invented for this drink, in every aspect. I've also been working this past year on a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon, a truly sublime Kentucky whiskey. All the same, I don't advocate alcoholic beverages for children.

My wife will be glad to tell you that one of my other vices is video games. Another holiday gift, which I recently finished, was F.E.A.R. This is a first-person shooter that features telepathically controlled paramilitary clone soldiers. I couldn't make that up if I tried. It's bloody, excessively violent, and great fun. It's also rated "M" for a reason. I only play it when my children are fast asleep.

We're not talking about child pornography or something equally reprehensible. Nevertheless, I don't think the parents of my patients need to know these things about me. I don't think they really want to know. Why spoil the illusion of wholesomeness?

And so, if you meet me at a party, just don't tell my patients. And if you do, I'll just deny it all. It's all for the kids.



Wow. I'm honored to lead a category. I would like to thank the Academy . . .

I posted my thoughts & reasonings on this subject not long ago so I won't reiterate it all here. I'm fairly certain I'm unique in the doctor-blogosphere in that I'm in it to extract "justice" from a corrupt legal system (as current headlines demonstrate, we in NC have corner on the market) that allowed me to be pounded into the ground for doing the right thing. It's unacceptable.

I suppose that my primary motivation for "going bare" into the ether is that I am so disgusted with the profession that I am thisclose to leaving it.

That's a real shame because I'm very, very good at what I do, and at one point I lived and breathed for Pediatrics.

If my experience . . . and whatever may evolve from it . . . puts some heat under some seats . . . wakes people up . . . and changes the environment for the better . . . if it prevents even one Ped from getting to the point that they would leave, then I've accomplished something for the kids:)

I realize I push the envelope sometimes . . . especially in some of my more cantankerous exchanges with local "citizen journalist" bloggers (we have a whole subculture in the Greensboro NC area). I fret about it. But I am not perfect, the world is not a wholesome place, and I've always felt that the best example for a child was to first and foremost be honest.

The irony is that when I write a book (and tell the stories I can't when I blog), I will probably change the names (including my own) to protect the guilty.

Excellent post. Blog on.

Cathy said...

We are very close to losing one of our best medical bloggers for the reasons you just mention. He has been around for months "Anonymously"..But, he was outed and it was mainly because of his IP # revealing what city and state he was in. Thats all it takes to find out an identity.

My goodness, he started to receive hate mail and his blog was certainly not controversial. He really talked very little at all of his experiences as a Doc. But, he was very popular and his blog had started to get the attention of some big guys, such as, those at FOX news and I honestly think people got jealous and just really came at him unfairly. So If it's helpful, just make sure your blog doesn't get so imporatnt that the BIG guys start writing about it.

BTW, I love your bloga nd I have read every word Dr. Hebert has ever written about Katrina. Im sure I will also read all of yours. 2 years before Katrina, my sister lost her home and everything during one of the florida hurricanes in Port Charlotte.

Shinga said...

Somebody lost their job for appearing in a parody? Was this something more than the sort of parody one might see on SLN (assuming one were in the US, which this one isn't)?

I know that a midwife blogger had a crisis of confidence a while ago because one of her clients thought that she recognised herself.

Blogging is interesting for a variety of reasons. Your musings about to go with your 'real' name or not are food for thought.

Regards - Shinga

Bryan said...

Congratulations in blogging "out of the closet." I always thought that if you couldn't face up to what you were saying you probably shouldn't say it at all. And thanks for the plug.

Bryan said...

I should qualify that last comment by saying that I respect those who blog in the dark. Everyone's circumstances are different and its better to blog in that way than not at all.

Dr Dork said...

Howdy Dr Scott,
I sometimes wonder if it is a love of alliteration or just echolalia...

I think that each of us chooses anonymity, or identity disclosure, for reasons unique to our circumstances and content. I don't believe in tarring anonymous vs non-anonymous with a single brush.

I must confess it seems a bit weird to me that Dr Anonymous posts a video blog and then gets all het up about anonymity.


Jim Chen said...

Hi Dr. Scott,

I'm pleased to see you blogging. And thanks for the links to Jurisdynamics and to Disasters and the Law. I'll be blogrolling you soon.

Best wishes from your friend in the legal world,

Jim Chen
Dean and Professor of Law
Louis D. Brandeis School of Law
University of Louisville

Ami said...

I'm not a medical blogger, but I've chosen to not be anonymous simply because I would like my name to get more exposure as I try to become published.

I think everyone has different things they are trying to accomplish when blogging. Sometimes anonymity is appropriate, and sometimes not.

I enjoy your words. Thanks.

DrGwenn said...

Hey, if Oprah can do it, what do any of us have to be fearful of! In the end, we can all be found online whether we use our true name or not. But, we all have our reasons for hiding behind a cloak sometimes.

However, it is a myth that a pseudonym protects you from hot water. A few bloggers have found themselves in hot water recently and it sure got me thinking:

Blogged and Burned

Dr. Gwenn

Dr Scott said...

Dr. J--I saw your recent post on this subject--I certainly admire your courage in posting "au naturale." I do hope it has not brought you too many trolls. Incidentally, a colleague from my first job (about which I commented to you on your blog) did actually leave medical practice entirely after that sordid experience. Though she ended up as a med school professor in the Caribbean. I think she made a good choice. :)

Cathy--I'll have to read up more on the "Anonymous" story. In the meantime, I can't see this blog getting all that big (promises, promises?) Even if I wanted to aspire to fame, I remind myself that this is a tiny community within the blogosphere within the world at large. And it's the conversations within that community which are the big reward (hmmm...idea for a future post...)

Shinga--I didn't want to link directly, but if you go to YouTube and look up "Technical Virgin" you'll find the clips (as long as you're not easily offended). Yes, they're basically SNL material. You can also look up Melanie Martinez on wikipedia for more details. Shame, really; I thought she was a good "host" with a nice child-friendly demeanor.

Professor Chen--I feel like bowing down a la Wayne's World; "We're not worthy, we're not worthy!" Thank you immensely for your kind words on Jurisdynamics, and for your interest here. Hope you have settled in to your new home in Louisville (a great city!). I want to post about Jurisdynamics soon--not to merely join the Mutual Admiration Society, but because your blog and your scholarship are an inspiration (interdisciplinary, academic but not afraid to be human, thought-provoking, resourceful) and more people should read it with regards to the complexities of Katrina and future disasters.

Indian Medic said...

considering that for most doctors blogging is a vent to let out their professional frustration, its understandable that they r anonymous.
imagine a patient reading about himself on his doctor's blog.
blogging does violate the privacy of the doctor patient relationship, no matter how we try to disguise our patients' identity, its still not ethical.

Kim said...

I'm not so anonymous! : )
But..I've worked for so many years and in so many departments that I can put together a patient that never existed by using characteristics of patients that did.

Besides, I like my job, it's a great facility and while it's not RIGHT out there, you don't have to work to hard to find it... : )

Jezebella said...

I should think it's patently obvious that Miss Melanie (a woman) was held to a different standard than George Carlin (a man).

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