A new perspective: from physician to patient
Two OhioHealth physicians share a similar journey — the journey of finding themselves in the shoes of the very person they care for: the patient.
David Ruedrich, MD, was in medical school when he received the call that his father was in the hospital. When he arrived at his father’s side, he was awestruck at the care his father received.
“He had an amazing doctor, and his style of communication and commitment resonated with me,” says Dr. Ruedrich.
He vowed right then and there to incorporate that temperament into his own style of care. Dr. Ruedrich would go on to become an OB/GYN with Premier Women’s Health, a subdivision of MaternOhio Clinical Associates. For the past 27 years, he has enjoyed every aspect of what he originally set out to do: commit to caring for his patients.
Then, something unexpected happened.
He noticed a growing tremor in his right arm that spread through his hand. As a high-risk obstetrics physician, he thought it was a chronic-use injury. But the pain had become overwhelming and in January 2012, he made an appointment with Andrea Malone, DO, neurologist and body movement specialist at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
She diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease.
“My first thought was, ‘I’m done,’ ” says Dr. Ruedrich.
He says Dr. Malone listened as he asked questions and talked through his concerns. He was reminded of the power of communication and commitment between physician and patient. Only now, he was the patient.
“I realized I wasn’t done with being a doctor. I now knew what it was like to be the patient, and I wanted to continue to help.”
On the very day he was diagnosed, Dr. Ruedrich returned to his office — and his patients.
“Being a doctor is not just about the practice of technology and science,” he says. “I was reminded that it is a focus on the human emotion and condition. I had patients that needed me — and I needed them. This disease was not going to stop me.”
Today, Dr. Ruedrich sees patients three days a week and staffs an ultrasound clinic one day a week. He is also involved with OhioHealth’s Delay the Disease™ program, which is dedicated to helping patients with Parkinson's disease manage their symptoms.
“The program encourages me to do Parkinson’s specific movements. It combines fitness with aerobic exercise in order to help with movement, balance, speech and handwriting — all of the things that Parkinson’s impacts,” says Dr. Ruedrich.
“I wanted to do something to help people like her", says Dr. Halaharvi.
And that’s exactly what she did. After completing her residency and a fellowship, she went on to practice at OhioHealth Breast and Cancer Surgeons.
It was in March 2015 when the tables were turned. A routine mammogram revealed a mass in her right breast. A biopsy quickly confirmed she had breast cancer. And in that moment, she, too, went from physician to patient.
“I was in shock,” says Dr. Halaharvi. “All I could think was, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why now?’ ”
One week later at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital, Dr. Halaharvi’s colleague, Mark Cripe, DO, FACOS, breast and melanoma surgeon, performed a bilateral mastectomy. And just like her patients, she went through a series of emotions: denial, anger, depression and, ultimately, acceptance.
After surgery, she thought to herself, “Why not me? Why not now?” She realized now she could personally empathize and relate to what her patients were going through.
Professionally, Dr. Halaharvi says this disease has changed her. Throughout her medical training, she was taught — from a textbook — how to deliver bad news. But now, she knows how to deliver the news from an emotional perspective because she has been on the receiving end of hearing the words, ‘you have cancer.’
“Now when I learn one of my patients has cancer, I commit to giving them one hour of my time to talk through their fears and questions. In that moment, I feel like we become family, because I know what they’re going through,” she says.
Dr. Halaharvi says this disease has personally changed her, too. She values every single second she has with her children and husband. And that’s not all.
“As silly as this sounds, I used to save my nice clothes for special occasions,” she says. “Now, I’ll put on a nice outfit on any given day because ...why not? Live your life!”