Walking into Malcolm Sickels MD office, the first thing a person sees is a framed certificate from American Association for Health Freedom (now Alliance for Natural Health). Close by is a Global Medical Brigades certificate of appreciation. Welcome to the world of ICIM Member Malcolm Sickels.
I collected my observations as I waited for my appointment to talk with Malcolm. The atmosphere is informal and laid back with bird song playing in the background. Rather than the typical array of Highlights magazines, there is a huge book on anatomy illustrated for children in the waiting room. Nearby is the version for adults. This office is clearly interested in patient education. The décor is light in color, walls lined with framed photographs of fruit and vegetables. Malcolm’s dog hangs out at the office (though she stays outside the exam room). While I was there Malcolm’s youngest daughter popped by to see her dad on a walk from their house nearby.
In an interview by Susan Howes, “Whole in One” from Top Docs 2008, I read,
Susan: “I read on your Website that you emphasize talking with your patients”
Malcolm: “The Latin root of the word ‘doctor’ is docere (to teach). It’s not somebody who hands out medications. Doctors are under enormous financial pressure to produce and to get more patients through.”
Dr. Sickels has clearly rejected that paradigm. He tries to see no more than two new patients per week and spends a full two hours with them. A standard visit with him is an average of one hour.
I tried to learn a bit about how the office operates. The one-woman front desk worker is busy doing the scheduling, billing, payroll and all other administration of the practice. Every year she invites an intern studying medical billing at a local college to help. When a patient first calls they have the choice to see Nurse Practitioner Gaia Kile, become a patient of Dr. Sickels, or make an appointment for Thermography. Gaia and Malcolm each have their own patients, though Gaia is an employee of the office. The office team constantly keeps in touch through instant messaging, and all records are electronic. But, that doesn’t prevent the old fashioned papers and junk mail that cover Malcolm’s desk.
You can tell a lot about a medical office by its bathroom. Here the bathroom is stocked with shelves showing off crates of 100%recycled paper and cleaning supplies. Orange plastic urine collection containers are displayed in a decorative natural basket. The bathroom wall hangs a beautifully illustrated “Alternative Alphabet Poster for Little and Big People” featuring words such as freedom, diversity, cooperation, homeopathy, justice, nature, non-violence, revolution, unity, and ukulele which portray Malcolm’s progressive values and sense of whimsical humor.
Clearly a visit to Dr. Sickel’s office is a different experience than medical business-as-usual.