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« Dr. Craig Koniver Adds His Voice To Freelance MD | Main | Harvard Study: Most Physicians Will Be Sued »

Get Your Dopamine Firing

By Craig Koniver, MD

"Elated. Enchanted. Alive."

These are the words that are common to people experiencing a dopamine burst. This is true for those in love as well as those who just deeply connecting to others. What is your dopamine doing these days?

Modern medicine is broken--I don’t need to tell you that. There are too many sick patients and far too many unhappy doctors to think otherwise. We have more heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and depression than ever before. There are more people with autoimmune disease than cancer and heart disease combined. On top of that patients are not happy with their doctors and they are taking these frustrations out on us and our staff.

On the flip side, we too, as doctors are also struggling. The role of the private practice is being destroyed as doctors leave their office settings to work for hospital systems or larger corporations. Many, many of us are dissatisfied with all of the administrative, insurance and government bureaucracy that causes us to wonder what medicine really means anymore. Malpractice premiums are rising at the same time that insurance reimbursements are falling and diminishing. This is why you come to this website, right?

On both sides of the coin, we now have a scenario where our beloved medicine has changed for the worse and both ourselves and our patients are struggling to know what to do next. Throw in the uncertainties related to Obamacare and our anxieties and frustrations are compounded.

It is not hard to trace the roots of the medical system demise--it certainly parallels what has happened with our economy and society over the last century. The industrial mindset has dominated our economy, our school systems, our political systems and our medical system as well. Many of us grew up believing in this system--go to school (obey the rules), get a degree (obey the rules) and then get a job (obey the rules). This industrial mindset that allowed for the factories to make the rules for the workers is exactly what happened in medicine where the doctors set the rules for patients.

Patients wanted this because this is the system that we all believed in. In medicine, this system flourished once antibiotics became a valuable commodity. Now instead of the patient and doctor working together to help heal the patient, the pharmaceutical drug became the holy grail. Doctors became masters of these drugs and the pharmaceutical industry blossomed beyond belief. Of course it was not limited to just antibiotics--soon after, we had hormones and antidepressants and antipsychotics and blood pressure medicine and cholesterol medicine!

We are focused on the wrong product! We as doctors have not spent nearly enough time and energy developing connections to those around us. This includes our patients, but more importantly includes our family, friends and colleagues. We did this to ourselves. Unhappy with medicine? This is what we get when we focus our attention on the wrong product.

What we need to do now is take a step back and pause. Because what truly matters in life is how quickly and how deeply we can form connections with others. That is the product worth focusing on--our relationships.

If you truly want to bring about more satisfaction in your life outside of medicine, than you have to be willing to approach life differently. Simply put, we have been trying to acquire the wrong “things”....sure, money, status, toys are all worth the while, but nothing compares to acquiring real interactions with the people around you.

Did you know that when you form a deep connection with someone the Dopamine in your brain fires as if you were on drugs? Literally. Problem is, we have been trying to get our dopamine fired up from all of these material pursuits in life. No wonder we get bored and disinterested in modern medicine. All that system cares about is managing patients with more meds.

Sure, modern technology is to be embraced and there certainly is a time and place for pharmaceuticals--there can be no denying how great an impact they have made. But to continually blame others (insurance companies, government regulations, patient non-compliance) for the current state of our much maligned system without taking responsibility ourselves is a huge mistake.

We are as much to blame as everyone else involved. We all understand that medicine is not going in the direction we all want, but I feel that we are missing the larger and broader points. Medicine, both in and out of the office, needs a new set of rules for us to follow. We have to start focusing on our relationships in our lives above all else. Outside of the office, we have to be ready to put down our iPhones and listen to our spouses and our children. We have to be willing to start digging in the mud and stop shooting for the stars. In the office, we have to stop relying on drugs and surgeries to define what we do.

Because ultimately our patients and ourselves want the same thing. We want to feel a connection, to have an interaction with our patients and those around us. To view this in any other way is counter-productive.

To help facilitate yourself forming deeper and faster connections with those around you, try the following few, simple ideas: --Use positive words to help set the table for your interactions....remember, people use the same positive words to describe how they feel when they are feeling great

  • Mirror the behavior of those you interact with: people seem to be able to reach a deeper level of connection when they talk with those that can mirror how they talk (some people like to talk with their hands and some people like to sit perfectly still when they talk)
  • Use body language to your advantage: a small touch on the hand or elbow can go a long way in helping establish deeper levels of connections
  • Look into the left eye of the person you are interacting with: the left eye is the receiving eye, while the right eye is the deflecting eye

The sooner you are willing to step up to the plate and start connecting to the people in your world around you, the better you will feel and the more successful you will become. Your dopamine will thank you for it, I guarantee it.

About: Craig Koniver, MD runs a busy Organic Medicine practice in Charleston, SC. He writes at

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