September 2000

Midlife Crisis

By Michael J. Katin, MD

It's amazing how different things seem to you when you reach 45 (monthly columns, that is). It seems like only yesterday that I stayed up for three consecutive nights to produce the January, 1997, column, whereas now it's lucky if I even proofread these. I will avoid the cheap laugh of throughing in typografical errors at this point. A lot has happened in the last 45 months, some good, some bad, most equivocal, as with most things in life.

Is this a premonition that there may not be any more columns? I hope not, but is it realistic to think that there's enough material in this world to keep going for another 3.75 years without brazenly or even unconsciously recycling previous material? This writing is supposed to at least in passing refer to our specialty, and therefore justify being under radiotherapy.com rather than under some other website, but I fear our profession is somewhat static right at this moment. But perhaps that's just the calm prior to the storm of breakthrough discoveries to be revealed at ASTRO next month.

Nonetheless, there still remains the possiblity that there will be nothing left about which to write. That then triggers reflection about life in general. I know you've all thought about which when you will see the final status check, which treatment plan will be your last, which consultation will signify your swan song. And you can then think about how you'll be remembered as a physician and as a human being...such as how you treated your patients personally and technically, how you were able to balance your professional and family life, how you intereacted with your staff and colleagues. Were you a teacher? An innovator? The truth is that within about five months you'll be as forgotten as yesterday's bowel movement. The only way to remain a memory in the medical profession is to leave plenty of undone work for other people to finish, and then you won't be forgotten. Everytime somebody has to make an extra trip to a hospital to sign some verbal order that you left before going AMF, everytime a patient shows up for followup with nobody having a clue as to what was intended next, everytime a ream of paperwork comes back on a protocol patient that you saw two years ago, you'll be recollected. Just make sure you haven't left a forwarding address.

So please come through at ASTRO, RSNA, or whatever. I'd rather be writing about physics than metaphysics.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com