“If you’re a regular person with a regular job and you save a person’s life, it’s a big deal. I’ve lost count of the situations where, if I hadn’t been there, someone would have died.”
So said Dr. Tim Michals, doctor of internal medicine and pediatrics, last week during a day at the ACMC clinic in Redwood Falls.
He added, “But I try not to celebrate too much. This job can be very humbling, because things don’t always work out.”
What is “internal medicine”? Except for dermatology, isn’t all medicine, by definition, internal medicine?
Internal medicine is, according to Michal, “sort of like the classical physicians sitting around pontificating about the hows and whys of illness.
“The vast majority of medicine these days is with specialists. All the specialties are offshoots of internal medicine.”
In short, doctors of internal medicine are the big-picture doctors, the ones who step back and try to see the patient as a whole.
“If a patient has a lot of medications interacting, or a lot of problems interacting, I’ll be asked to take a look at the situation,” Michal said.
Although he has clients who he sees exclusively, much of Michals’ time is spent consulting with other doctors.
“If they have a patient who they feel is a little outside their scope of practice, they’ll ask me to see that patient,” Michals said.
“My practice is based on referrals, mostly, although I’m available as a regular doctor,” he said. “Those patients who are referred to me with especially complex problems end up becoming my patients after awhile.”
Although he is based at the ACMC clinic in Marshall, Michals began coming over to the ACMC clinic in Redwood Falls once a month starting last June. That monthly schedule lasted approximately one month.
“I was coming up once a month, then found out people from Redwood Falls were driving over to Marshall to meet with me,” he said. “Now I come up to Redwood twice a month.”
On Wednesday in Redwood Falls, Michals saw a patient with chronic pain, a patient having problems controlling diabetes, and a child with behavioral problems.
Part of Michal’s training was with children having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Currently about 20 percent of Michals’ practice is treating children with ADHD.
How does Michals stay busy in his free time?
“Doing paperwork,” he said. “And I have two little ones at home – a three year old and an 18-month old. That’s what I do.”
Page 2 of 2 - Michals met his wife in medical school, where she was training to be a physician’s assistant. Although Michals was originally from the Chicago area, the family moved to Marshall since that was where Michals’ wife is from.
“You know how that goes,” he laughed.
What is the most rewarding part of Michals’ job?
“If someone has a problem I’m able to solve, or if I make a really good catch,” he said.
What part of his job would he do without?
“Even if I have to tell people the worst news of their lives, that’s not as bad as all the paperwork,” he said.
Mulling over his answer, he added, “Even if you have to tell people the worst news of their lives, sometimes they’re relieved just to have an answer. If you can handle that worst situation well, sometimes that can be kind of rewarding.”