#DoctorsDay

Happy Doctors Day to all my friends, family, and colleagues. I’m so proud of all the work that you do and how difficult it is.

We are having a huge doctor shortage in this country which is getting worse, day by day. It takes me weeks and endless phone calls to find a primary care referral for my neuropsychology patients. All my experienced physicians are completely full and they work a lot. Doctors are not there ‘for the money.’ The amount of education, work, stress, hours, and student loans is immense.

I want to mention three superhero doctors in my life who influenced me as a child and young adult:

My uncle, Dr. Paul Fischer, is based in Augusta, GA, and has practiced family medicine for over 35 years. His first practice was a solo rural one in Weeping Water, Nebraska, where he worked with many indigenous American patients, with deep compassion and gentleness. He moved from there to the Medical College of Georgia where he was a professor of Family Medicine, considered to be the less glamorous sibling of the medical practices. While there, he published a controversial article in JAMA showing that children as young as 4 years old, routinely recognize “Old Joe” the Camel cigarette cartoon character. Smoking was commonplace in preteens and teens and highly addictive. His research led to a long legal battle with the tobacco industry. Let’s just say that they don’t play nice. Thanks to him, cartoon characters and cigarettes are no longer friends.

My uncle Dr. Teepu Siddique is the foremost scientist and neurologist in the world helping ALS patients. His team at Duke Medical Center was nominated for the Nobel prize in medicine, giving some hope to families affected by this terrible disease. I have to add that he gave me my first medical research job, and I can still run DNA in a centrifuge in my sleep.

He and his collaborators, including my friend, Dr. Alan Roses (RIP) kind of adopted me. We went out to many lunches at red lobster and talked about neurogenetics (I wasn’t joking when I said I’m a science geek). His team discovered the first known cause of ALS, linking mutations in the SOD1 gene to the disease, and developed the first models for ALS and ALS/dementia, now used by investigators all over the world. Over the years, Dr. Siddique’s research has pioneered additional causes and signatures for both familial and sporadic forms of the disease and paved the way for targeted treatments.

I saw my friend’s father pass away from ALS, and I am so grateful for advances in this area. Dr. Siddique is a professor in Feinberg’s Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, as well as the Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology and Pathology, Northwestern U.

My paternal aunt, Dr. Asma Qureshi Fischer, perfected pediatric ultrasound, a noninvasive neural-imaging procedure to detect severe neurological disorders in infants. She patiently allowed me to work in her office and participate in hospital rounds over several summers. If you are ever planning on having children, I would not recommend hanging out in obstetrics wards.

Most certainly, my family and many mentors and friends helped me fall in love with science and neuropsychology. We are complete nerds combined with an aching desire to heal.

Thank you to all the doctors out there.
We need you.

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