Where Have You Gone, Marcus Welby?


Being a child of the 1960’s, I know television messed with my head in ways that I will probably never be able to truly fathom. The tail end of the Baby Boomers grew up with not only having the crap scared out of us after watching The Twilight Zone (anybody else remember the episode with the talking ventriloquist’s dummy? That one episode kick started a sleeping disorder that persists to this day,) and sitcoms where nobody had sex, everybody was invited to the neighborhood block party—even the neighbors nobody liked—and father really did know best.

I liked the sitcoms and the thrillers of the era and I loved the dramas, especially Marcus Welby, M.D.

Dr. Welby was a widower in his sixties who shared his comfortable home and thriving practice with young motorcycle riding hothead, Dr. Steven Kiley. Dr. Kiley was a poor but brilliant new physician who was able to relate to the Youth Crowd with groovy ease. Mark and Steve had their differences when it came to patient care but at the end of each episode what was best for the patient always triumphed. The duo often ganged up on their unsuspecting patients and dropped in on them at work or at home to make sure they were taking their blood pressure medication and not doing anything fun like drinking Bloody Mary’s and seven in the morning but the message was clear: the good doctors cared more about the health and well-being of their patients than quite often the patients did themselves.

Rounding out the microcosm of medical utopia was Consuela, a human dynamo who was a combination receptionist, scheduler, nurse and general gentle female influence. She also took care of insurance, gave immunizations, bandaged knees and probably could have filled in as an anesthesiologist in a pinch. In Marcus Welby’s world, no one had ever heard of Medicare Part B (or unions, apparently).

I think about Dr. Welby whenever I’m forced to participate in the morass health care has become. I also think about him when I’m at a doctor’s appointment and my doctor introduces himself each time he sees me as if we’d never met before.

Dr. Welby would remember me, I think but don’t have the nerve to say to my physician holding a laptop and wearing a glazed expression. Dr. Welby would also recall the name of my husband, my children and what my hobbies are.

In addition to knowing each of his patients and caring about them as if they were his own children, or at least step-children, Dr. Welby specialized in follow-up care. If a husband who could no longer perform in the bedroom with his wife but had no trouble at all with his lady friend went to see Dr. Welby, Dr. Welby, after making sure there was nothing organically wrong with Mr. Wanderlust, promptly kicked said patient in the ass (figuratively, of course) and gave him a short but pointed lesson on How to Be a Decent Human Being.

Eventually I am sure I would probably resent that kind of deep and probing interest in my life and I do think it might be a bit of a drag to have your doctor show up at your house with lab results but I would like a little something injected into our health care system. Eye contact, perhaps.

I appreciate my doctors and I realize they are overwhelmed with heavy caseloads, Medicaid and rolls and rolls of red tape. I like them and I’m grateful they had the brains and fortitude to make it through medical school while large portion of the rest of us were lying around watching reruns of Marcus Welby. I’m glad they’re there; I just wish they were more…there.

See what I mean? Television messed me up completely.



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