In Practice: Jeffrey Disney, M.D.

Disney, Jeff, M.D., F.A.A.E.M. Jeffrey Disney, M.D., FAAEM
Emergency physician, Providence Newberg Medical Center

Distinction
Earns some of the highest satisfaction marks from patients

Past lives
U.S. Navy physician; OHSU Department of Emergency Medicine instructor of the year

What does every ED patient have in common?
They’re dealing with something they feel is a crisis – whether it’s acute pain, injury or illness – and they’re scared. Sometimes they’re frustrated that an ongoing condition is not being addressed quickly enough, or with empathy and compassion. Sometimes they feel other health care providers have not explained their diagnosis, treatment plan or what the future holds.

We know from evidence-based literature that patients decide if you’re a good emergency physician within the first two to three minutes of your introduction. I’ve got just a few minutes to make a good impression and put them at ease – both the patient and their significant others.

How do you do that?
By acting and looking professional. Patients have an expectation about their visit. If you don’t meet that expectation, no matter how good a scientist you are, you won't be a good physician in their eyes. They expect that I will be compassionate, caring and that I will listen to them. They expect me to look professional with an appropriate attire, demeanor and confidence in my skills.

I walk into the exam room, wash my hands in front of them, then sit down. The literature tells us how effective sitting down is – and it works. If I’m actively resuscitating a patient, I stand at their feet so they can see and hear me, and yet out of the way of my nursing colleagues, who are the mainstay of putting patients at ease.

If you weren’t a physician, what would you be?
A teacher. You learn more from your pupils than you ever impart. It’s a way to leave the world a little better off than you found it, too.

Why were you in Africa recently?
I’m an oral board examiner for the American Board of Emergency Medicine and was invited by the embassy staff in Nairobi, Kenya, to come and teach emergency medicine.

Lamu Island, 40 miles south of the Somalian border, has only two vehicles (one of them the ambulance) and is six hours from any significant medical facilities. They have an open sewer system, and malaria is rampant.

They have no formal medical evacuation system. Patients often die of simple injuries and illness. Every time I travel overseas to teach, I realize how lucky we are in this country – despite all our political and scientific disagreements on how best to support and reform our medical system.

What book would you bring on a desert island?
Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I like his straight, no-nonsense take on life. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Who influenced you the most?
Ah, this is difficult! Professionally, my internship advisor. She taught me the art of medicine, and how to hold the hand of a dying patient. That’s something you can’t learn from a textbook. Emotionally and spiritually, my fly-fishing rod. I’ve learned more about life from standing in a river and hoping to catch a rising trout than anything I’ve garnered from a human.

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