To Shave or To Save?


November is coming to and end, and unfortunately that means so are many of the marvelous moustaches that have been nurtured and groomed daily.  For many of our lady friends, December 1st is the happiest day of the year.  However, for us men, it is tragic; we have become accustomed to our month-long relationship with our furry friends.  Some have received names, others have inspired poems, and all have been cuddled lovingly throughout the night.  The loss of a moustache is often compared to the death of Bambi’s mother, or the day your parents flushed your first goldfish.  Although it is a sad day, always remember that it was not in vain.  Your attempt at an upper lip unibrow was a statement that you support Movember, men’s health awareness, and saving lives.

Sadly, some of our optometric brethren were never given the chance to show their support for men’s health because their school or attending doctors claimed that they made the interns look “perverted”, “creepy” or “unsuitable for a pediatric rotation!”  I argue that these claims are absurd and chiseling away at the foundation of preventative health care that so many in the health field fight to create.

It is said that the best medicine is prevention.  The stress on the medical system could be reduced if treatable medical conditions were screened for earlier, treated earlier, and cured earlier.   Unfortunately, men are less likely to receive regular screenings and check-ups.  Years of society conditioning has taught men to handle our own problems, rarely go to the hospital, and that if it is broken it will probably heal on its own.  This mentality has inadvertently lead to diseases going undiagnosed and thus progressing to later stages; these men will require more intensive treatment or may be beyond the abilities of medical intervention.

We, as health care workers, must also build a trusting relationship with our patients and get them to talk to us openly.  If physicians finally succeed in getting a patient into an examination, then next challenge is to get an accurate and comprehensive case history.  Assuming patients do understand what the physician is asking them, If patients do not feel comfortable with their doctor, they will be more reluctant to divulge information – information that may be useful for diagnosis or potential treatment.  How can we build stronger, more trusting relationships with our male patients (and in turn, become better clinicians)?  The solution is right under our noses – Grow a moustache.  By allowing interns to participate in Movember, we are telling our patients that we are concerned about their health.  We, as men, are willing to spend an entire month in public with an embarrassing moustache (some more than others) just to show the patient that we are proud to help spread awareness.  If a patient is not aware of why we grow moustaches, we can educate them on the importance of annual medical check-ups.  If a moustache is good for only one thing, it is starting a conversation about men’s health.

Perhaps the presence of Movemeber moustaches in clinic will help decrease the financial burden on the health care system.  It encourages men to be more open when discussing their medical history and can create stronger patient-doctor relationships.  So I encourage schools, doctors, and women across the country to embrace the moustache in the month of November – it is here to help, to raise awareness, and most importantly it saves lives.

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