Friday, July 10, 2015

Greece's Doctors

I recently had an unusual encounter with a doctor. It was quite different from my first visit to a physician's office in Greece back in 1983--for a severe case of food poisoning. The doctor back then also had his office in the port of Igoumenitsa, but to get there, we needed to take a bus from Margariti on a narrow winding road around several mountains--not a very pleasant trip even in the best of health.

As I recall that day, I remember the doctor well. His office was small and unremarkable. He spoke perfect English and he attended to me with great care and kindness. The medication he prescribed was very effective. Overall, it was quite a reassuring experience, as I'd been staying in the somewhat primitive conditions in which Margariti was engulfed at that time.

Over the years, there have been other doctor visits: dentists, pediatricians, general practitioners. All providing very good care for a small affordable fee.

This most recent visit however, felt a little different. I needed to see a dermatologist. One was recommended by someone in the village. So we drove the  17 miles to Igoumenitsa, about a 20 minute drive with the new smooth and modern Egnatia Highway. Once there, it took us a while to find the doctor's office because it was located away from the center of town, in a residential area. The sign to the office was small and somewhat hidden by vegetation. The office itself was on the first floor of a residential building which was reached by walking through a gate into a beautifully manicured yard. It was shared with a dentist as indicated by another sign and it appeared to have a home on the upper floors. This is not terribly unusual in Greece but it's the first time I, personally, have seen a doctor who is outside of the business center of Igoumenitsa.

The unusual part came when the young doctor opened the door to the waiting room to usher us into his inner office.
His eyes were averted, sort of looking at the floor as he spoke to us. At first, I thought he was blind or severely visually impaired, which would be fine except for the fact that adequate vision would be a requirement for a dermatologist as he is expected to identify and treat skin disorders. He immediately went into his office and sat behind his desk, offered us the two seats in front of his desk and began punching the keys on his computer and asking my name and other such information. I had expected him to introduce himself or smile at us or some other introductory action that seems to be commonplace in the world at large.

He was a nice enough person, I suppose, and I guess I could file this under "bedside manner," his being sorely lacking. However, I could not shake the feeling, as I left the office, that there was some type of  high functioning Asperger's Disorder at play. If this particular person had grown up with Asperger's Disorder—diagnosed or not—then he had done quite well for himself and I say “bravo!” However, when I relayed this story to someone else, she told me about the current “brain drain” that is occurring in Greece. Specifically, the economic crisis, in addition to a whole myriad of effects, is also causing some of Greece’s brightest and most intellectual individuals to escape to a more secure future in Germany or Sweden. This was reiterated in The New York Times article by Erik Olsen entitled, PRESSED BY DEBT CRISIS, DOCTORS LEAVE GREECE IN DROVES.

That being said, my new dermatologist seems like he might have some difficulty adjusting to a new country or culture so I'm feeling confident that he will be here for a while, if I need him.

I'd love to hear from you!

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