Finding Dr. Right
Your ideal dermatologist is: Board certified and has experience treating
your condition (some skin docs are extremely specialized). To find one by
location and expertise, try the American Academy of Dermatology's "Find a
Dermatologist" tool at aad.org.
Your health complaint: High cholesterol, diabetes, weight
Your options: Nutritionist or dietitian
Your best bet: Dietitian
"Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist—the title is completely
unregulated," warns Ruth Frechman, R.D., a registered dietitian in Burbank,
CA, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That means the
"nutritionist" working at your gym may be anyone from a highly
qualified expert to an amateur with no formal training or education whatsoever.
The title "registered dietitian" (R.D.), on the other hand, is reserved
for people who have completed a four-year degree in nutrition, plus 900
supervised clinical hours, and have passed a national exam, qualifying them to
help manage medical conditions through diet. Some states require that R.D.'s
also be licensed.
In general, be wary of anyone who sells dietary products, insists high-dose
vitamins or minerals are necessary, or pushes a particular brand. That's not to
say that an omega-3 fatty acid or another supplement is never helpful, says
Frechman. But the only thing your dietitian should be trying to sell you on is
the benefits of healthier eating.
Your ideal dietitian is: Registered, state licensed where required, and
specializes in your particular dietary issue, whether it's high cholesterol,
diabetes, or weight control. Log on to the American Dietetic Association
Website (eatright.org) to search for one by location and area of expertise.
Your health complaint: Joint pain
Your options: Orthopedist or rheumatologist
Your best bet: Depends on the source of the pain
If your pain is due to exercise, overuse, or injury, see an orthopedist. He
or she will perform a physical exam, order any necessary diagnostic tests, and
may prescribe pain meds, physical therapy, or surgery. However, if you're
experiencing unexplained pain in multiple joints, visible joint swelling, or
morning stiffness, you could have an inflammatory disorder and should see a
rheumatologist. They're trained to recognize and treat tough-to-identify joint
conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. "Rheumatologists
have to be medical detectives, because so many of the diseases that we treat
are obscure," says Neil Birnbaum, M.D., president of the American College
Your ideal orthopedist is: Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic
Surgery (see abos.org/directory.aspx) and specializes in the joint causing you
Your ideal rheumatologist is: Certified in rheumatology by the American Board
of Internal Medicine (check out "Who is Certified" at abim.org).
How to Manage Your PCP
Every doctor is busy, but it's crucial for your health that your primary
care physician (PCP) be someone you can rely on. If yours perpetually runs
late, or demonstrates any of the following behaviors, it's time to switch docs,
says Kevin Soden, M.D., author of Special Treatment: Ten Ways to Get the
Same Special Health Care Your Doctor Gets .
Red flag: The doctor has limited office hours and/or tells you to go to the
ER if anything comes up while he's off-duty.
Red flag: The wait for a checkup (a well visit) is several months.
Red flag: He won't even discuss a new treatment you've read about.
Red flag: He refuses to provide patient references.
Red flag: His support staff treats you rudely more than once.