From the Chief Medical Editor


Ophthalmology 90210

Larry E. Patterson, M.D.

A man is hit by a car while crossing a Beverly Hills street. A woman rushes to him and cradles his head in her lap, asking, "Are you comfortable?" The man answers, "I make a nice living." —Milton Berle

We were ensconced as guests of the exclusive Beverly Hilton Hotel, an edifice so swank that the fire ax in the hall outside our suite said: "In case of fire, break crystal." —Jack Paar

For decades, people have been enamored with Beverly Hills. The movie stars, the glamour, the wealth. Numerous movies have been produced based on a sarcastic lampooning of the lifestyle there.

I learned long ago in my career that visiting other doctors and facilities can open your eyes to many ideas and possibilities that can enhance your own practice. In turn, I've hosted dozens of doctors and their staff members over the years to give them some of what we've learned. In January I had the pleasure of visiting Sam Masket, M.D., and the opportunity to see what life was like in an actual Beverly Hills surgery center.

The facility was very nice and clean, but surprisingly not overly ritzy or ostentatious. It was similar to many high-quality surgery centers located all over America. From the receptionist to the nurses and everyone in between, all staff members were very friendly and professional in dealing with their patients. They did everything they could to make sure each patient felt individually cared for, including little touches like a nice fluffy pillow under their head during preop that was transferred beneath the knees during surgery. Dr. Masket's skills in the O.R. were superb.

But the event I remembered most was the interaction between the anesthesiologist and the patients. Dean Berkus, M.D., has worked at this center for some time. The doctors really like him, and now I know why. I watched as he spent a good deal of time with the first patient, making sure the man was well prepared both medically and psychologically for the surgery. Then he said something to the patient that I immediately jotted down: "We value your comfort." Wow, that was powerful stuff. Dr. Berkus was letting him know how important the patient was and how much they all appreciated him trusting them with their vision.

Dr. Masket confided to me early in the day that he was not so much into efficiency as he was into taking care of each patient, one at a time, and really enjoying his time in surgery. I learned a lot from my trip to Beverly Hills (even getting to speak with Denise Richards at a store on Rodeo Drive) but I'll never forget that even in one of the wealthiest places on the planet, people are all the same. They want to be treated as individuals, and know that those of us entrusted to caring for them feel the same way. And they want to know that "we value their comfort!"