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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dr. Gott embraces Internet in ending newspaper role

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Dr. Gott’s last column. We thank him for the thoughtful and informative medical advice he has given to his faithful readers for more than 27 years, and we wish him well as he pursues his online endeavors.

DEAR READERS: I began writing medical columns for my local weekly paper in 1967, the year I moved from New York to a bucolic section of New England, where I have remained ever since.

Perhaps part of my success stems from the fact that I admit I’m human.

I did and still do refer to physicians as being arrogant, pompous, egocentric and irrationally independent. We pontificate, are self-righteous, impatient and materialistic, have obsessions for fast and expensive cars, believe we are infallible, a step above most people, and entitled to fringe benefits and large investment portfolios because of the MD after our names.

I write that our feathers are fluffed and our heads swell if we walk into an office waiting room full of patients who have to wait to be seen. I indicated in writing once that if a patient was made to wait more than 45 minutes to see a physician who doesn’t explain the justifiable delay, the doctor should be sent a bill for the wait time.

Still today, I believe these “qualities” apply to far too many physicians. After all, as a member of “the club,” I feel if I can’t poke fun at my profession, nobody can. I’m not afraid to speak out.

After reading some of my columns a number of years ago, the executive director of the Dutchess County (N.Y.) Medical Society approached the president of my county’s medical society because he was outraged by my “attacks” on the profession.

My, how the fur did fly! The society wanted me censured. They then found, to their dismay, I was a past president of my county’s society!

Because of all the hoopla, I was interviewed on radio and television and in newspapers. Unknowingly, I became a celebrity overnight.

In retrospect, I thank those critics, because I was approached by the Newspaper Enterprise Association in April 1984 to become its new medical columnist, replacing Dr. Lawrence Lamb, a heart specialist. What a good move! I became syndicated, appearing in more than 700 newspapers nationwide, as well as in several foreign countries. I began receiving about 2,500 pieces of mail every week.

To this day, I can’t thank my syndicate enough for its continued support and encouragement.

I’ve seen many changes in medicine over the years.

Research remains ongoing on almost every condition known to mankind and offers new treatments and even some cures.

New medications are constantly being introduced and investigated – some that appear to be nothing short of a miracle, others that may have unwanted long-range side effects that aren’t always promising in the overall scheme of things.

Looking back, I had a demanding practice. I was medical director of two private schools, town sanitarian, made daily house calls, was on call at my local hospital every third night and weekend year-round – and put pen to paper for a seven-day-a-week column. I wrote several books.

All this must have cut into the time I set aside for family and for the few hours of sleep I was able to get.

Surprisingly enough, I loved every minute of it and still treasure the memory of those patients I was allowed and privileged to care for.

I prided myself on being a technophobe and dug in my heels when it came to learning about computers. But change is inevitable in this ever-changing world. The economic climate is different. Newspapers have gone digital, and one click of a mouse button will update a reader to the top events of the day.

I wanted to be a part of that world, too. So, in 2010, I stepped up to the plate and with the support of my syndicate, coupled with the vast knowledge of my office staff, I expanded my horizons by having an honest-to-goodness Web site, This was no small task, but I can now reach readers with a click of a button.

Change has struck again, and now it’s time to say farewell to my newspaper syndicate family with whom I’ve been for 28 years and hello to the Internet.

I will continue to write and answer readers’ questions every day. Writing is in my blood. Your e-mails should still go to my Web site, as they have in the past.

Readers who prefer to mail in their inquiries and health questions, or to request health report orders in writing, should forward them to Peter H. Gott, M.D., P.O. Box 433, Lakeville, CT 06039.

So, loyal readers, stay tuned and please keep your letters coming by whichever method works for you. I’m here to stay by using a different venue, and I value every letter I receive.