I had a rather upsetting visit to the doctor last week. I hadn’t wanted to go to this doctor, because my first experience with her in June wasn’t great, but I went. For some context, my PCP referred me to a gastroenterologist back in May. She believed it was possible I was having some nutrient malabsorption issues because of some weird things that happen when I eat certain ways (specifically, if the carb content of my daily diet drops below 50% of my calories, I start experiencing extreme thirst, facial inflammation, peeing 3 dozen or more times per day, muscle/joint/bone pain, etc). The actual doctor she wanted me to see didn’t have any openings for months, but the other doctor in her practice, one Dr. Mallikarjun, had an opening in June. I went ahead and took that one, to my long-lasting regret.
June’s appointment was…unfortunate. The nurse was awesome, but Dr. M was HORRIBLE. The only questions she asked was if I had diarrhea, heart burn, or unexplained weight loss. Since the answer was no to all of those, she asked me why I was there. Um…okay. So I explained why my doctor sent me over, and before I even got halfway through the explanation, she cut me off, told me we could do an endoscopy and small intestine biopsy, and then left the room, leaving me to figure out what to do next. I didn’t even know what she’d be doing these procedures for! But I set the surgery up for the end of July, and a follow-up with the doc at the end of August.
Only then, I ended up in the hospital with colitis in July, and I didn’t want surgery so soon after sepsis. I called to cancel the surgery while I was still in the hospital, and figured that was that. Until I received a call from the surgical center a few days before surgery, calling to give me instructions for the surgery day. I had to explain to them the situation and got the procedure actually canceled. Meanwhile, I’d had an abdominal CT scan, and there were some troublesome spots on my liver that my PCP wanted the gastroenterologist to check out, in addition to following up on the colitis situation. I still had my f/u with her scheduled for the end of August, so I went back, even knowing it was going to be bad. I just…had a feeling. And my instincts, as usual, were right.
First, the office had no record of me ever having been there. Turns out, they’d changed systems and lost all their patient records. (This explains why they were trying to bill me for something I’d already paid, too, as well as them not actually canceling the surgery.) Dr. M had no idea who I was, and asked if she met me during my hospital stay. When I explained to her about the original biopsy plans, she again cut me off mid-sentence (she ALWAYS did this!) and said we could reschedule. I told her I wanted to wait until the hospitals weren’t filled to capacity with covid patients, and she LITERALLY ROLLED HER EYES AT ME. She turned back to her computer and told me that fine, follow up with her in six months. Then she asked me the same questions about diarrhea, heart burn, and unexplained weight loss, listened to my abdomen for half a second, and said I was fine. No follow-up on the CT scan at all, and less than five mins after she entered the room, she was done.
Only, as she was turning to leave, she suddenly paused, then turned to me and said, “Also? Lose weight.”
I wish I could get across her tone here. They were the cruelest, most dismissive words she could say, filled with absolute contempt and judgement. I’ve had doctors act condescending to me about my weight before, but never with undisguised contempt. In that moment, I was frozen in shock. Thankfully, I managed to get my mouth back in working order before she left, and I started stumbling out an explanation about that being why I was sent to her in the first place, nutrient malabsorption, etc. She cut me off – again – with another eye roll and said that yes, she remembered, if I ate too many carbs bad things happened. Clearly, she remembered wrong, because it’s the opposite, and I corrected her. She gave a dismissive wave of the hand and told me that it was “simple math” and that if I ate fewer calories than my body used, I would lose weight. If only it were really that easy, right? I began to talk about inflammation and hormones and autoimmune issues, and she again gave a dismissive wave. Those didn’t affect weight loss, she said. They only affected your metabolism, and if you eat at a calorie deficit–
By this point, I’d gotten over my shock, and I was ANGRY. I cut her off this time, and said, very slow and strong and clear, “I can be have a thousand calorie deficit every day for months and still be gaining weight.” It was the only non-yes-or-no sentence of the entire visit that I finished in completion. She looked at me for a second, clearly deciding that it wasn’t worth arguing about because I wasn’t going to take her “advice” seriously, and said, “There’s nothing wrong with your small intestine. Clearly you’re absorbing nutrients if you’re gaining weight, so it can’t be a nutrient malabsorption issue.” Then she stood up, told me to call the office to make a follow up visit in six months, and left.
This, my friends, is a complete and utter failure of the medical system, and of a doctor. Dr. Mallikarjun ought to be stripped of her medical license, or at least required to take some classes to get her up to date on science (and patient care!). You’d think a gastro MD would know that 1) weight loss and gain is far more sophisticated than “simple math,” and 2) nutrient malabsorption is not the same thing as “inability to take in calories.” I mean, you can take in calories but, say, not be absorbing potassium correctly, leading to low potassium levels. Just as one example. Then there is her “beside manner” so to speak. I’ve had plenty of doctors dismiss me or condescend to me, but the outright disgust and contempt is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from a medical professional. They may not believe me – and they’ve ALWAYS been wrong when they don’t, because I ALWAYS find the root of the problem when they fail to – but the “suck it up you lazy b!tch” attitude is 100000000% unacceptable. And that’s exactly the attitude she had.
I haven’t decided whether or not to file a formal complaint. I did see my PCP, who was very upset that I was treated this way, plus that Dr. M didn’t even bother to investigate the spots on my liver. She’s sending me to a different gastro doc to start from scratch, because that was completely ridiculous and a waste of months of time. She also said that she will never refer another patient to their office, and she’ll be spreading the word around the rest of the practice (which is a multi-office clinic with dozens of doctors and PAs). Good. No one needs to see Dr Mallikarjun and her horrible judgmental and blind practice.
Each time something like this happens, I get a little better at advocating for myself. I hope to do better in the next situation, not allowing myself to get cut off every sentence, standing up to the doctor when they make dismissive comments about my weight or health practices. I work HARD for good health. I eat well, I eat moderately, I exercise as often as I can, I get good sleep, I take care of my body. I do all the right things, even if my body doesn’t respond the way it’s expected to. And I don’t want to be involved with any doctor who doesn’t understand and respect that.