Color matters. Think back to autumn, where a sea of burnt orange or a tide of crimson identifies college campuses on Saturdays. Green became a banner of change and solidarity during the Arab Spring. Movements need a flag, a rallying image to draw the eyes of the next recruit. Once the image catches the eye, it needs to capture the heart. To advance 2014 as the Year of the Family Physician, I suggest that family physicians modify their daily white lab coat. We replace the collar with a blue one. This is to symbolize that family medicine is blue collar medicine. We do the front line grunt work of filling out Family and Medical Leave Act papers, school and sports physicals, back-to-work notes and maternity leave notices. How many times have we completed paperwork because another specialty instructed the patient to “go see your primary care [family] physician?” We see all and are expected never to turn a patient away. There is no referral labyrinth to see a family physician; we are front and center for our patients. We practice on Indian reservations, in mobile clinics, inner-city free clinics, and, sometimes, under a tent. You will find us wherever there is a patient in need.
The blue collar will also signify commitment to our patients-we are their true blue providers. We will be there to provide continuity and coordination of care. We will care for their families and their communities.
The blue collar will distinguish us and spark conversations from our patients and our colleagues. It will become our badge of honor, our beacon to all who need comprehensive care. Superman has his red cape and Batman has his signal. Family physicians will have their blue collars. The collar can be seen from a distance, but will be meant to draw us closer to those we serve.
I have included pictures of my Siberian Husky Bodie modeling my lab coat with the blue collar. This serves as my nod to interprofessional collaboration; UC Davis has a medical and a veterinary school. My mother was kind enough to do the tailoring. If Bodie resembles any of your colleagues post-call, that is purely coincidental.
Go forth, family physicians, and greet your patients with a heart of gold and a collar of blue.
If anyone does modify their lab coat with a blue collar, please send a photo to email@example.com.
Next: recognition of self.