When I was young, a zillion years ago, I didn’t believe in doctors. I thought they went to college to learn how to kill people. There were too many stories floating around about negligent doctors causing more bad than good. I used to call them “matasanos“, which translates more or less in English as “killer of healthy people”. Needless to say, when you are young you own a body that is like that of Superman. You feel so strong, that you actually believe you can walk on water.
Then age starts to pile upon you like ton of bricks, health starts to deteriorate and your opinion of doctors morph into a feeling of empathy. More because of need than because of admiration. That comes later, if the physician is good.
After I retired at age 62, a piano suddenly fell on my back. Ouch! It was the beginning of a long road of pain, ill-health and all sorts of body problems. During that health mayhem, my wife introduced me to Dr. Carlos Tam S. Our first appointment was cold and formal—straight to the point. I still had my hidden distrust for matasanos.
Since then several years has passed and a lots of gallons have flowed under the bridge. Distrust has smoothly morphed into friendship, trust and empathy. For five years my wife and I have visited Dr. Tam, and even though I don’t feel like Superman any more, my health is as good as it can be, considering that I’m 67.
Dr. Carlos Tam knows the miracle of curing through humanizing medicine, just like Patch Adams (his real name is Hunter Campbell Adams) does at the Gesundheit! Institute in Pocahontas, West Virginia.
M.D. Patch Adams as he is called, is an American physician, social activist, citizen diplomat, professional clown, performer, and author. He founded the Gesundheit! Institute in 1972. He’s a controversial person because he questions the school’s approach to medical care, and clashes with traditional doctors because of his belief in the necessity of personal interaction with patients.
Patch believes that treating a disease of the body is a win-or-lose situation, but treating a person’s spirit guarantees a win regardless of the outcome, even when it’s death. He encourages medical students to cultivate relationships with nurses and learn their interviewing skills early, and argues that death should be treated with dignity and even humor.
Convinced of the powerful connection between environment and wellness, he believes the health of an person cannot be separated from the health of the family, community, and the world.
Adams urges medical students to develop compassionate connections with their patients. His prescription for this kind of care relies on humor and play, which he sees as essential to physical and emotional health.
Patch’s theory on healing is definitely different. He believes that laughter is the best cure. He loves to go from hospital to hospital making people laugh and teaching regular doctors how to be funny for their patients. He “thinks every doctor should be a heart specialist—a merry heart, that is.”
My doctor, as well as Patch Adams, borders the concept of heroism in medicine. They know that a disease can not be cured unless you interact personally with the patient.
We last visited Dr. Tam on August 4, 2014 for our regular checkup—every three months—just to make sure the machine is ticking as it should be. Since I knew I would visit his clinic, I went with my Birthday camera in tow. I asked if I could take a picture and if I could write about my experiences with him on the Internet. He nodded to both requests.
Please let me introduce a doctor in Panama who cures with the heart. His name is Dr. Carlos Tam S. Here we go.
Yep, medical heroes do exist in flesh and bone. I’ve met one in Panama City. His name is…you already know. Good Day.