I saw the 2 burly police officers in the hallway before I saw my patient. They wore latex gloves, ready to take action no matter how messy it got. I didn’t think much of it. Blue men were not an uncommon sight along the hospital wards of San Francisco General Hospital.
“Better not be going all the way to Richmond or I got something for you,” I heard muttered behind me. I chose to ignore him, as did everyone else on the BART car. But I knew the threat was directed at me.
I sat in an audience of about 500 other nephrologists learning the latest about diseases affecting the filtering parts of the kidney, the glomeruli, and their treatments. It was the second day of the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week and the end of a very long day of lectures that would be capped off with a discussion of case studies, led by experts in diseases of the glomeruli, the answers unknown to them and us.
“I take care of people, not patients,” the doctor self-righteously announced before asking his question of the panel of speakers. We were sitting in a conference about how primary care doctors and nephrologists could use health information technology to provide better care to patients with chronic kidney disease. “When did ‘patient’ become a dirty word?” I asked my colleague sitting next to me.