The winter 2016 issue of The Ohio Family Physician depicted the past, present, and future of family medicine. Multi-generational family stories were published in the issue that portray the true meaning of “putting the family in family medicine.” These stories provide inspiration to bring joy back to practicing family medicine with an emphasis on the patient-physician relationship and caring for communities. Together, we can bring back this joy, combat physician burnout, and increase physician resiliency.
One of the families featured was the Diller family—meet these family physician brothers in the following segment and look for other family stories in upcoming editions of the Weekly Family Medicine Update, on the OAFP website, and on the Academy’s Facebook and twitter pages.
“Looking back on one episode in my early career, I was in the hospital late at night providing palliative care for a patient who was dying of lung cancer. I also had a lady in labor. I was in the room with the family as the lung cancer patient died. I had tears of sorrow. I then walked down the hallway to the obstetrical unit and delivered the baby. There were tears of joy. This is the ultimate description of family medicine as it was meant to be,” said Jonathan Diller, MD, FAAFP.
Indeed, this is the full scope of family medicine that the Diller family witnessed as their father, Alford C. Diller, MD, the 28th president of the OAFP, provided care to the communities of Van Wert county in Ohio. Dr. Jon Diller and his brother, Philip Diller, MD, PhD, had continuous live coverage of their father’s patient care. Dr. Alford Diller’s office was half of the family’s house downstairs and the office parking lot was next to the family’s basketball court.
“We saw his patients as part of the normal routine as they came and went from his office. We experienced first hand patients with injuries or even patients dying next door. My first heart attack experience sadly involved the father of one of my friends, who was also the choir director from our church. He died in my father’s office. We were able to go on house calls, and we would sit in the patients’ homes and sometimes hear the conversations. Our father was county coroner and in college I was able to accompany him on coroner calls. I encountered the dead up close, lifting a recently deceased truck driver out of his truck and then assisting the pathologist with the autopsy. Sitting in the back seat of my father’s car, I heard him counsel a wife whose husband had committed suicide. On a happier note, our father included obstetrics in his practice and my first delivery was a former high school friend and his wife,” said Dr. Phil Diller.
“As I progressed into graduate school and medical school, my father and I had conversations about what I was learning. He and I went to the same medical school and believe it or not, we had some teachers in common. We shared notes. My father loved books and he had kept all of his medical school notes and textbooks. Our father left it up to us to decide on a career, but when I decided what to do, his sharing of what he enjoyed and believed about family medicine was powerful—every person should have a personal physician in a continuous relationship. I have come to see the wisdom in the patient-physician relationship.”
It is also this wisdom of the full scope of family medicine that Dr. Phil Diller seeks from his brother, Dr. Jon Diller. The two brothers talk nearly every month about their shared experiences. With Dr. Phil Diller in academic medicine, Dr. Jon Diller is one of his primary sources of what family physicians experience on the front lines.
One of the best experiences that Dr. Phil Diller had was during his training years when he spent two weeks seeing patients in Dr. Jon Diller’s office.
“It was one of the best experiences that I have ever had. I had my own schedule of patients and got to see how he was able to see and deliver excellent care to nearly 40 patients per day,” said Dr. Phil Diller.
The Dillers recognize that family medicine has changed significantly since they both started their careers, and it has changed since growing up watching their father provide full spectrum family medicine. They are hopeful that the patient-physician relationship and cradle to grave medicine continue to be a driving force in health care.
Read other inspiring family stories in the winter 2016 issue of The Ohio Family Physician.