2002-08-31 / Letters

Bright Light Leaves Us

Bright Light Leaves Us

Dear Editor;

The community of the Rockaways suffered a personal loss recently with the passing of Dr. Barbara Levine. Dr. Levine, whose practice resided on Beach 121 Street in Rockaway Park, was an exceptionally caring and kind caregiver, both as a doctor and a friend. But how does one's own doctor become one's friend? In Barbara's case, simply by the amount of quality time she spent with each and every patient.

Recently, I read a study regarding the amount of time male and female doctors spend on average with each patient. The study concluded by stating that female doctors averaged 26 minutes of quality patient time, while male doctors lagged slightly behind averaging 24 minutes. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief happy that I was blessed to have Barbara as my doctor. Why? On average Dr. Levine would spend approximately 1 hour, if not longer, with each of her patients! In this modern day and age, doctors are often too bogged down with overcrowded waiting rooms, an array of insurance provider forms, and a managed care bureaucracy that seeks to control costs and spending, often resulting in marginalizing doctors' abilities to provide the kind of care they want to provide to their patients.

It's no secret, and Barbara's patients will acknowledge, that Barbara never allowed herself to get backlogged in these bureaucracies to the point of ever compromising her patients care. In fact, it was often these cases of paperwork we stepped over on our way to her examining room.

On the other hand, Barbara did appear out of the modern day loop of technology and modern convenience, perhaps to the point of seeming a bit eccentric. Her waiting room with ten-year old copies of magazines, paint chips that hung from the ceiling and her office still complete with old rotary phones and old-fashioned patient files, would make many a visitor cringe! However, to those of us who were her patients it mattered even less. Oftentimes, in her waiting room we would compare notes about how long we have to wait to see her. Nobody ever complained about waiting sometimes for hours to see her. Why? Quite simple, we knew with Barbara her care was worth waiting for. And, boy! Was she a thorough clinician! You were not only examined for your immediate presenting symptoms, but how these symptoms might possibly affect the other components of your health as well. In addition, Dr. Levine had an uncanny knack for including you in your own diagnosis, prognosis, and type of antibiotic regimen best suited for you.

Maybe, there was something in Barbara's relationship with us that reminded us of the type of care we received from our own parents and grandparents back in our childhood. In any event, Barbara's doctor/patient relationship will truly be her legacy, and should serve as a model for doctors in training.

Dr. Levine, before becoming a doctor, was a math teacher for the N.Y.C. school system. As a teacher myself, she often liked to compare notes with me about the job. In her conversations with me, it became apparent that Barbara never lost sight as to why she became a doctor. She emphatically cared about every patient she had in her care just like she did for her students years earlier.

Dr. Levine, I feel sadly, was the last of the dying breed of old-fashioned medical providers that we don't see too much of anymore. It was evidenced by her life's work that she truly was more concerned with the health and lives of her patients, rather than conveniences, technologies and the bottom line.

Dr. Levine, thank you for the many years of care and counsel you provided me. Thank you for being my doctor, my friend, and from time to time, my surrogate parent too. You made a difference in my life and my health, and I know I speak on behalf of many of your patients whose lives you also touched. But I'm sadder still for those who never had the opportunity to have had you as their doctor.

Truly, a bright light has left the medical community of the Rockaways. Rest well, Dr. Levine.

BRIAN KELLEHER


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