ANNUAL MANUAL- DR. HOOK- What's up, doc? Finding the MD that's right for you

If you're new in town, finding a new primary care physician (PCP) can be quite an undertaking. For example, pretend you're the beautiful Nicole Kidman. You just had a baby and you're not feeling so hot, so you Google to find a new PCP. There are a ton of doctors' names, and you click on a few hoping to find A Few Good Men.

Voila! You come across a Top Gun-looking doctor, a Dr. Hong... (I wish)... a Dr. Cruise. True, he might be someone you would have a Cocktail with, but that would be Risky Business.

You read his bio: he's Born on the Fourth of July and even owns an ultrasound machine at home. (Wow, he must take his work home with him.) So you call his office, find out if he is approved by your health insurance, and make an appointment.

Underneath the Vanilla Sky is a Magnolia beside Dr. Cruise's medical office: nice office! The porcelain-skinned staff members are very friendly. However, when you finally meet Dr. Cruise, he lacks All the Right Moves. He's arrogant, doesn't listen to you, and scoffs at you when you tell him that you feel depressed. When you realize it's Mission: Impossible, you try to get Far and Away from him to prevent a War of the Worlds. 

Is there a secret to finding the right primary care physician? There's no winning formula, but there are a few things that might help.

Word of mouth: ask people who their doctor is, how long they've been seeing him or her, and what's to like. One woman said to me, "I prefer my doctor because he's no-nonsense. I don't want a doctor with a personality. I'm not there to socialize or feel warm and fuzzy."  

Many men have told me, "I just see my doctor because my wife forces me to. Otherwise, I really don't care about it."

"Dr. X has been seeing me for 80 years. He doesn't even remember my name at this point– he's so old," some folks say. "But I can't switch doctors because I would feel disloyal."

So make sure you consider the source.

Don't interview the doctor: some people call or e-mail me that they want to "interview" me before actually scheduling an appointment. Theoretically that makes sense, but realistically it's impossible. Doctors are so busy seeing patients, writing notes, calling patients back, reviewing labs and tests, etc. that taking time to be interviewed by a non-patient is unfair to the established patients. Ergo: word of mouth.

Board Certification: be sure your doctor is board certified in his or her field. A friend of mine in L.A. told me, "Oh, you have to see my doctor. He's great and wears Prada."

I didn't know what Prada was at the time, but I went anyway for a general check-up. It wasn't until I was in his office that I learned he was Board Certified in anesthesia, not internal medicine or family practice. Let me tell you, the visit was not a gas. While I was naked on the exam table, he made me get on all fours like Lassie to exam my— well you can figure it out. I should have asked him if he wanted me to bark, "Timmy has fallen into the well."  Do you want a psychiatrist doing your PAP smear? Do you want an OB-GYN doing your prostate exam?

You can search the Board of Medicine on line to see if the doctor's license has ever been suspended or revoked, how long he or she has been in practice, etc. But really, you'll never know until you see the doctor. Nonetheless, going in Eyes Wide Shut can be a precarious experience.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but John Hong is a renowned physician with a local practice. E-mail him with your questions.



Went in for a lump on my breast looking for a mammogram. The doctor assigned to me was a female about 3 years out of medical school. She said..." well, you have not been in for regular annual visits.. so I do not think I will let you have a mammogram." So I left the appointment with no mammogram