At a faculty research seminar, we were discussing future directions in family medicine and included the subject of auxiliary health workers, family nurse practitioners, and physicians' assistants. To establish a focus for our discussion, one faculty member said, "We are talking about the barefoot doctor type, the individuals who will be at the front lines of health care provision."
In response, John Hilditch, MD, of the University of Toronto, said, "You know, I can take off my shoes, too!" Although this statement was simple, it was also profound. The statement implies that it is appropriate for physicians to be at the front lines of health care provision and, when possible, to offer their patients a full range of health services.
I concur. Physicians should not be locked into offering their patients only advanced treatments, leaving less complicated procedures for others. I believe that physicians who commit themselves to the management