Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

This has been the longest summer of my life. I have always loved fall and that back-to-school feeling, along with the nip in the air of things that are changing. But this end of the season is a real blessing.

I did return refreshed from my holiday last week. Now I look at time as a gift, not just as a clock ticking that gives me more hours to spend thinking and working. Before this recent holiday with beloved friends, I had not known that I was so depleted. I had the words, but I did not have the experience of being refreshed.

Work has been easier at this end of the summer here in New York. So many doctors are away this time of the year that I am often the first to be called for odd ailments and emergencies for those of us still in the city. Since the schedule is lighter, with many patients away, I have time to think about these issues that are not the primary focus of gynecological medicine but the exciting part of holistic care.

Last night, I had time as well to meet another doctor that I do not know well for a drink at the Carlyle Hotel. We met up in the wonderful Bemelmans Bar, with its hand-painted murals of New York life on all the walls created by this famous New York illustrator. I love the story that Ingvar Bemelman, the creator of the Madeline books for children, wanted his tombstone to say: “Tell them it was wonderful.”

I like being on time but don’t want to be early, so when I arrived 10 minutes before the appointed 6:30, I wandered over to the concierge for a copy of The New York Times. “I have to tell you something, but only in a song,” said the concierge — I swear this is true, (only in New York…). At the top of a delightful baritone he began to sing: “A red-headed woman makes a choo-choo jump its tracks.” He continued with more of that “Porgy and Bess” song than modesty allows me to repeat. Some special service at this hotel: songs based on hair color.

I was not only red-headed but — oddly for me — blush pink when I met my host at the bar. He also had red hair. I related my New York experience: He knew Porgy and Bess as a long-ago movie.

So, my host drinks Scotch. Neat. And I, who drink almost no alcohol, had Jack. Neat. He is Mike for real and I am, of course, Pat. This amused me. Even before the Jack. “So, you like movies.” he began.

Mike is smart and runs things in a really innovative way at a big hospital here in the city. He wants his patients and residents and medical students to have exposure to doctors who love what they do, just like he loves his work.

Doctors like Mike, and his friend Peter, who introduced us, are the reason I became a gynecologist. They believe in excellence, and they believe that we have to change at the right time or fall behind. They work more than full time and are role models for the younger doctors who get to understand that medicine is best practiced fully focused and patient centered.

This was another holiday for me. I had a night out with a colleague to discuss how we can best teach those who come after us and care for those who are our patients in a way that brings honor to our profession and joy to our lives.

The Scotch and the Bourbon were old-fashioned rituals from long ago, meant to mark the end of the day and the start of something new. Mike is the real deal in a time of poseurs. Women are lucky to have someone who trains young doctors, not just by what they say but by what they do.

This is why we need to go away for our health. Take a holiday to recover. And we don’t always need to leave town to have a holiday.

Bemelman was right. It can be said, after we are gone, that we believed that “It was wonderful.”

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  • Betsy Old September 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Ditto for me re: Beverly Schwartz’s comment about your patients being lucky to have you in their lives.

    Lucky also for us that you are so thoughtful and thought provoking. We do not, without a doubt, take enough time to savor, to refresh and to renew. I love Bemmelman’s “it was wonderful”. Here’s one more, June Carter Cash said that when she died she hoped people would say that she “mattered”.
    How meaningful to have a wonderful life and to have what you do matter to other people. Thank you for bringing a wistful smile of longing and remembrance to me today.

    Reply
  • Beverly Schwartz September 3, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I always think, when I read your columns, that your patients are lucky to have you.

    Reply
  • Willse Elizabeth September 2, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Autumn is my favorite season as well, especially the first few chillier days.
    In other words, this weather is perfect.

    Reply