The Lung Doctor

By Greg Nathan posted May 14, 2024

This is Greg Nathan and I'd like to share a personal story. If you are receiving this you probably help others in some way for a living, so I hope you find it useful. When my wife and I moved to Brisbane just over 30 years ago, I had a big idea to set up a business specialising in the psychology of franchising. But I had little money and we initially lived in a slightly ramshackle cottage with an outside bathroom that was infested with black mould.

A serious infection

Unfortunately, some of the mould found its way into my lungs and I began to suffer some unpleasant symptoms. My GP referred me to a lung specialist who told me I had a serious infection known as aspergillosis, To top it off I was allergic to moulds, so my body was not happy. The specialist said the prospects of a recovery were slim, and that I would likely lead a compromised life with ongoing breathing problems and a dependency on corticosteroids.

Competent but arrogant

Something that puzzled him was my absence of asthma symptoms, which are usually associated with this condition. When I explained I had practised Yoga breathing, all for many years he scoffed and said he didn't believe in "those things". Without explaining his strategy he put me on a massive dose of prednisone, so high that the pharmacist phoned his surgery to question whether there had been a mistake.

While I’m sure he was a competent physician, he was rigid in his views,a poor communicator, and his manner was often arrogant and cranky. In one procedure, he berated me for coughing while he pushed a tube with a camera down my throat.

Seeking an alternative approach

I felt there must be a better way to treat this disease. I gathered a team of complementary health practitioners who worked together to provide me with a regimen of herbs, supplements, acupuncture, hypnosis and advanced Yoga breathing practices, all designed to strengthen my immune system. And to the amazement of my cynical lung specialist, I was able to stop taking the prednisone and make a full recovery.

Since moving back to Melbourne 12 years ago, I have visited a new lung doctor for an occasional check-up. She is so delightful and so different from the previous doctor, I wanted to share four processes she uses to engage with her patients, as you may consider using these in your interactions with others.

Profitable partnerships in action

She is always calm and upbeat, gives you the impression she is genuinely pleased to see you, and never rushes an appointment.

She asks great open-ended questions that quickly provide her with relevant information, and she listens carefully to my responses. She knows what I do for a living and refers to our previous conversations.

She tries to be helpful and has provided a host of useful lifestyle tips. For instance, she knows I value my Yoga breathing practices and encourages me to keep these up, but has also suggested some safe medications I can use if my allergies flair up. She even referred me to a speech coach to help with a voice irritation that was interfering with my public speaking.

She is fully transparent with her notes and her thoughts. She uses a large screen that is positioned so her patients can see what she is typing, draws diagrams to explain medical concepts, and shares her thinking processes with you before arriving at specific recommendations. It's a genuine consultation. She also copies me into correspondence she sends to my GP.

The contrast between these two lung doctors reminds me of a famous study that showed that patients usually only sue their doctors when things go wrong if the doctor also showed arrogance and a lack of empathy in the initial consultations.

I reckon we could all learn a thing or two from my new lung doctor. 

Until next time,

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