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Dr. Lanny’s Last Column

In the medical business, until the clock strikes midnight on June 30 of the last day of school, the medical student remains at the bottom of the food chain. He is used mainly for scut work—tasks the attending (The Big Boss), the fellow (The Academic) or the resident (The Day-to-Day Boss) would not deign to do.

And then suddenly as the last chime rings, the medical student steps out of his Clark Kent persona, and emerges as SuperDoc. He now has true responsibility for patients, can almost talk to nurses as their equal, and is sure he knows volumes more than the local medical doctors, who suddenly seem like dinosaurs.

Once upon a time, I was that suddenly all-knowing SuperDoc, but time has passed and I am now the dinosaur. How cruel.

This month marks 10 years of writing Ask Dr. Lanny, and that seems like a reasonable point at which to call it quits. I have commented on almost all of parents’ common concerns, and although there may be a whole new audience since I began, and the answers may have evolved, I don’t want to have to be concerned that I’m repeating what I’ve said in the past.

It also seems to me that a new voice from someone trained by different teachers and with a newer perspective would be a good idea. I think I’m still up to date, but just as music and art evolve, so does medicine, and I think young parents should hear from a younger person, ideally someone raising children just as they are.

As with all skills, the doing is much harder than the imagining. I always thought I could write a comprehensible sentence, but writing a monthly column has been far more difficult than I realized. From the beginning of Dr. Lanny, I struggled to explain medical concepts without lapsing into jargon that is familiar to colleagues but not to patients. Always searching for the right words to use has carried over into my daily practice and, I believe, made me a better doctor. I have always believed that if you really understand a topic, you should be able to explain it to anyone.

There have been many subjects I have discussed and many facts I presented that didn’t just spring from my memory, but required time at the keyboard and calls to doctors more expert than me who were willing to share their knowledge. Doing the required research has been an unanticipated pleasure of writing Dr. Lanny.

(Just in case anyone is curious why it’s Dr. Lanny: That has been what I have been called all my life. Family mythology says that Aunt Shirley suggested Lanny, but I was named Alan. Nevertheless I was always called Lanny. Go figure.)

Although it doesn’t directly relate to saying good-bye, I would like to reiterate a few thoughts that have weaved their way throughout the last 10 years of columns:

It is OK to question your doctor.

Always ask what a medication or a procedure is for, and if your child really needs it.

Be skeptical about anyone who is absolutely certain of the answer, be they medical or not.

Whether in medicine or politics, refusing to ever change your mind is not a virtue.

I would like to express my thanks to the editors in chief of Family Times: Ms. Tina Schwab, who first suggested I try writing Ask Dr. Lanny during a well-child visit with her daughter Lily; and Ms. Reid Sullivan, who let me continue under her reign.

I’m thinking of writing a mystery series with Dr. Lanny being the not-so-hardboiled amateur detective hero. Just

Dr. Alan Freshman, father of two grown sons, practices at Syracuse Pediatrics.


Photo above: Michael Davis Photo

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