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Jane Doe, MD–My Mid-Life Medical Sabbatical

Chapter 8:  Is Anonymity the Refuge of a Coward?

By Jane Doe, MD

hiding behind a maskI would have answered “Yes” to that question in most circumstances before I began this project so why am I anonymous?  Could I not protect the privacy of others by omitting names?  Wouldn’t knowledge of specialty and region help inform the conversation?  Does anonymity not decrease credibility?  Clearly, I decided, that on the whole, anonymity advanced my purposes rather than retarded them.

I considered and put aside the idea of a web log several times.  Would I write only for myself?  If I wanted to share my experience with a wider audience would the focus be professional or also personal?  Would my To be most useful to myself, and perhaps to others, I have chosen to be frank about every aspect of my mid-life adventure.  This means not giving access to these pages to my husband, children, colleagues or friends.  With no one but myself to know I can be forthcoming about the stress on my marriage, financial strain, problems with my children or in relations with colleagues both in my current situation and in my home practice which have been or may be engendered by my choice to pursue additional fellowship training at mid-career.  All these areas are of interest.  Of course, I must also not run afoul of patient privacy considerations.

The revelation of specialty has different drawbacks.  As doctors we quickly compartmentalize ourselves.  We are internists, pediatricians, radiologists or surgeons, etc.  We doubt that the experiences of those in other areas of medicine are relevant to us.  We sometimes should look more broadly and see that we have much in common as doctors.  These experiences include the primacy of the patient relationship, the burden of production pressure, the internal drive to excel and the competition of family needs with all of the preceding.  These factors, along with the daily physical, mental and emotional demands of training are felt in all areas of medical practice.

I am falling short of the ideal of full disclosure in an attempt to maximize benefit while minimizing harm.  In medical practice we do this daily.  The ratio can never reach infinity.  As most doctors do, I am trying to reach as great a number as I can.


Jane Doe, MD is on a one year medical sabbatical from her real job to seek additional training in her specialty.  She shares her observations and thoughts weekly here at WMDR.

One Note

  1. It is recommended that physicians be anonymous when dealing with social media. While it may be good to have another avenue of interaction with one’s patients, the danger associated with it is quite significant. Patients can easily ask for medical advice on Facebook or privately and the consequences of an incomplete opinion can be dramatic.

    One area that a doctor or a staffer must understand that the last item of the ePMI is called a “community standard”. Essentially it is understood by the OCR ( Office of Civil Rights) that if a patient or someone can identify the patient from the description, then it is a breach. And a breach means big bucks.

    I invite questions to:

    Richard Willner
    The Center for Peer Review Justice


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