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

But that didn’t sit well with Cirigliano, who believes those services should be part of the basic package, not extras. Besides, he had hundreds of patients who depended on him — many of whom lived in West Philly and could never afford the annual fee for a concierge practice. “I wanted all of my patients to get the same level of care, whether they had money or not,” he says.

So he decided to do something no doctor had ever done before: ask his affluent patients, a group who made up only two percent of his patient roster, to donate funds to help him build a practice that would outfit him with the space and staff necessary to do his job well for all his patients. In turn, he promised to make their medical experiences as pleasant as possible.

And because of who Cirigliano is, they bought it.

CIRIGLIANO’S DAYS START EARLY and go long. In addition to his full workload, he answers calls from patients at any hour of the day or night and does his best to transfer his love for primary care to the Penn medical students who shadow him regularly. Twice a week, he drags himself out of bed before 4:30 a.m. and makes the drive from his house in Glen Mills to Fox 29’s Market Street studio. There, he’ll discuss everything from the latest medical breakthroughs to the pitfalls of smoking, so into whatever it is he’s talking about that you’d think he skipped the cup and siphoned his morning coffee into his bloodstream.

Cirigliano also calls in weekly to 610 WIP’s Middays with Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow sports radio show to offer his loud, boisterous opinions on sports injuries and men’s health issues. “He’s the energy doctor. That’s what makes him good for TV and radio,” says Gargano, who feels Cirigliano is to his show what Dr. Oz is to Oprah. “The audience says, ‘I buy him. I believe him. I want him as my doctor!’”

But even after he switches from his TV-doctor hat to the real thing, Cirigliano’s bedside manner is a mix of stand-up comic, OCD dad and skillful physician. “He is always on. Always energized,” says Vesna Todorovic Sacks, a Serbian artist who lives in Symphony House and has been a patient of Cirigliano’s for the past five years. “Zipping everywhere. Working, like, 37 hours a day, calling you at 11 o’clock at night. And then you turn on the TV and there he is, still going. … But I finally figured him out.” She pauses. “He’s a virtuoso. And this,” she says, sweeping her hand across the small office, “is his stage.”