What's wrong with magazine "Best Doctor" lists.

Health and medicine explained.
June 13 2006 5:27 AM

A Few Good Doctors

Don't look for them on a magazine top-10 list.

(Continued from Page 1)

1) Trust your instincts: There are lots of rotten doctors, really really lousy ones, wretched souls you wouldn't want to know as people, much less trust with your health. But they aren't any harder to suss out than the schmucks you meet in everyday life. If your gut says run, then run.

2) Don't trust your instincts if a scalpel is involved: Subjective impression is meaningless when selecting a surgeon. Craft should trump your desire to like them; in fact, it's OK to hate your surgeon. You simply need him to cut and sew very intelligently. So always select the surgeon who has already done the most iterations of whatever procedure you need. Stated in Zagat-ian terms: Which restaurant do you want to go to—the one with the line or the one that sits empty?

3) Shop around: Diagnosticians, sensitive (and craftless) souls that we are, succeed only if we connect. A doctor who is beloved by one person can be a disaster for the next. Think of who ended up marrying whom—there simply is no accounting for taste. So look before you buy. Yes, it takes time, it takes money, it is humiliating and ridiculous and maybe just a sinister plot to give doctors more business. Do it anyway, and do it when you are well.

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Magazine "best" lists are a good read for choosing things that don't much matter, like fitness clubs and pizza and a summer vacation spot. But when it comes to the basics—health, education, and welfare—no one but a best-list maniac would seek counsel from the printed page. And for the maniacs, well, we can only hope that someone out there is polishing up a survey on the 10 best ways to cure a best-list addiction.

Kent Sepkowitz is a physician in New York City who writes about medicine.

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