DRHOOK- Bullies: They're not just on the playground

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Bullies. Do you know some or have you known some? Normally when you think of a bully, you think of a kid, but trust me: there are plenty of adult bullies. My fifth-grade reading teacher used to call me racists names (though always Chinese and Japanese because he didn't know what Korean was). Mind you, this was in NoWhereLand, Ohio–  there they were even racist to the animals.

What does a doctor do with a patient who's a bully?

My advice to other doctors: run! I learned in college, medical school, residency, and fellowship that doctors should try to work with all sorts of people. There usually is something in a patient's past that explains some unacceptable behaviors. 

However, as my religion professor in college taught me with his extremely heavy German accent, "Du cannot veeson vith a schkeptical or an unveezinable person." 

I naively responded to him that I begged to differ. I figured I could win over anyone if I was inquisitive enough, showed interest in the person, made a joke here and there. However, I think Dr. Phil and Judge Judy have shown us that doesn't work on some people. 

For sake of anonymity, I'm going to "combine" some examples from my practice into one person. 

For example, I had a "lady" who was acerbic as vinegar and biting as a rabid wolf. As soon as she entered the office, complaints would fly like arrows. 

"My God! How long do I have to wait? Don't use that blood pressure cuff on me! Your scale is wrong; I weight at least 95 pounds less."

As soon as I entered the exam room, I'd hear the famous words, "Why am I here? Just give me a referral, order my labs and refill my meds." And her arms and legs were crossed like a pretzel.

Sometimes it's the significant other who's anything but an "other." One "gentleman" used to point his finger with accusations and threats so much I thought he was a former Enron worker at a Congressional hearing. Of course, I would try to diffuse the situation and get on their good side– except if there isn't a good side. I was always doomed. 

"You and the last 18 doctors don't listen or admit you're wrong! We'll order a doctor on the Internet before we see you again!" Where? Amazon.com?

Some people demand that everything be spelled out for them. 

"You didn't mention the 79 side effects written on the package insert! You could have killed me." 

Um, it was calcium for your bones. I didn't think it would be such a big deal. 

I know we only register about 25 percent of what we hear, but still there are some folks who confuse a doctor's instructions with a song they hear on the radio on the way home. 

"Why did Dr. Gaga tell me I can't read her Poker Face?"

Dealing with flip-flopping bullies is like watching a murder scene under a strobe light. 

"Get me in that medical center now!" 

So I make phone calls, write letters, and spend up to an hour arranging an appointment. "Hi, good news. We got you an appointment for next month!" 

"No, I changed my mind. Cancel it." 

What'chu talking ‘bout, Willis? 

Okay, press the cancel button. 

And I cannot tell you how many times this happens: the patient calls back a day, week, or month later, "Get me in that medical center now! And get my rarely used expensive medicine authorized by my insurance ASAP!"

I wish I could talk to my college religion professor, may he rest in peace, and tell him I how, so many years later, I now bull-eve him.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.