Without a lot of drama, family physicians save lives every day


People don’t typically think of family physicians as super heroes, but they are quietly saving lives every day, writes Peter Rippey, M.D.

That hit home for Rippey, who practices family and sports medicine at a hospital-owned clinic in South Carolina, when one of his patients recently shook his hand and thanked him for saving his life. The patient had come in for a routine checkup when Rippey detected a heart murmur. Further testing revealed the man had severe aortic stenosis and the elderly man underwent successful valve replacement, Rippey wrote in a Fresh Perspectives blog post for the American Academy for Family Physicians.

“When one thinks of family medicine, heroic measures and saving lives are probably not the first things that come to mind,” says Rippey, and while the drama is usually reserved for emergency medicine, surgical specialties and cardiology, "in true underdog-turned-hero fashion, I would humbly offer up family medicine and primary care in any competition to determine which specialty saves the most lives."

Family physicians save lives in quiet ways: such as by helping an obese patient lose weight and preventing serious health issues or by treating depression that could lead to suicide. The government apparently agrees, as it places primary care and keeping patients healthy at the forefront in proposed changes in the Medicare physician fee schedule released earlier this year.

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