Medicine: Have You Hugged Your Doctor Today?

High-octane physician Mike Cirigliano is putting the care back in primary care — and maybe revolutionizing the health system while he’s at it

NOW THAT CIRIGLIANO IS calling the shots, the stresses are still there, but they’re the stresses of a full patient roster — he’s no longer accepting new patients (at least not officially) — and his on-camera commitments, not those of a medical system gone awry. And with the 32 million patients covered under Obama’s new health-care plan, Cirigliano hopes more PCPs find ways to make the job enjoyable again — otherwise, there won’t be anyone available to see those patients. “I think the idea could be replicated in other areas where patients come from a mixed range of incomes,” he says. But this would require doctors with the same level of passion and ability to bond with patients — something all of us with less-than-stellar PCPs wish for, but aren’t betting on anytime soon.

Of course, developing relationships and saving lives takes time. Cirigliano’s trumpet is now tucked away in a closet, and the uninterrupted hours with his-family — wife Elisabeth and two-year-old son Nicholas — are much enjoyed, but few. His unfulfilled passion for assembling radio-controlled model planes is made evident by the more than 200 boxes housed in his basement; he’s bought them on eBay, but has yet to find the time to put them together. But even on less than six hours of sleep a night, Cirigliano wouldn’t change a thing. “You have to love being a doctor for the right reasons,” he stresses. “You have to love it not only for science, but because you love the human organism. You love people. And if you love people, then it’s the neatest job in the world — even when it’s a pain in the ass.”

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