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Published on June 14, 2016

The perfect union: Doctor and patient through good times and bad

Madeline Coveleskie isn’t totally sure, but she thinks Patricia Szabo, MD, has been her primary care doctor for more than 25 years.

SzaboThat sounds about right to Dr. Szabo.

“We’ve been together a long time,” says Dr. Szabo, Internal Medicine Specialist at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.

“I’ve been doing this 30-some years. I would venture a guess that Madeline’s been with me pretty close to that amount of time.”

That relationship is important to both of them. For Madeline, it’s the comfort that comes with knowing that your health is in good hands. For Dr. Szabo, it’s a rewarding reminder of why she’s a primary care doctor.

A partnership based on trust

Honesty is a vital part of a good doctor-patient partnership. And it’s the first reason Madeline gives for staying with Dr. Szabo over the years.

“I think a lot of it is because she’s so honest, and I appreciate that from anybody,” Madeline says. “Let’s face it—we don’t always get good news from the doctor. And Dr. Szabo doesn’t try to hide things from you.

“She also knows I’m not going to lie to her, either. Because if I’m not honest, she’s not going to be able to resolve my problem.”

Honesty is also part of the contract between doctor and patient, Dr. Szabo says.

“You’ve contracted with me to help you. At least give me the whole story,” she says.

If a patient doesn’t like a medicine she prescribed, she wants them to be frank about it.

“Tell me you’re thinking about stopping it,” Dr. Szabo says. “Let’s talk about it, instead of me finding out you stopped it three months ago.”

For example, Madeline wanted to stop having blood tests every three months. “So I said to Dr. Szabo one day, ‘Can’t we go back to every six months?’ And she said no,” Madeline recalls with a laugh. But Dr. Szabo explained why she thought it was best to stick with every three months.

“And she was right,” Madeline says. “Nobody likes a lot of appointments, but it has been to my benefit.”

Sharing a history

Madeline says Dr. Szabo has seen her through a lot of hard times, health-wise. The two women worked together to get Madeline’s high blood pressure under control.

“Also, Dr. Szabo knows when you need a specialist for a particular problem and never hesitates to send you to one,” Madeline adds. “She knows the appropriate specialist who would handle your issue and always has references for you.”

Over the last few decades, Dr. Szabo has moved her practice three times. Madeline has moved too. They no longer live in the same city, so Madeline drives “a good 20 to 25 miles” to see Dr. Szabo.

“But she’s worth it,” Madeline says. “She knows my history.”

It’s that continuity in primary care that Dr. Szabo finds so rewarding.

“Medicine becomes more complicated by the day,” she says. “It’s good to have somebody in the driver’s seat. Somebody who can be the repository for all your information. That’s your primary care doctor.”

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