Go to contents

Some Doctors’ Constant Fear: Do Not Ask My Specialty”

Posted February. 27, 2005 22:49,   


“A” Obesity Clinic that recently opened in Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

The patients’ waiting room on February 25 was filled with advertisements related to skin care and obesity treatments, such as spa, massage and removal of certain obese areas. The patients had a firm belief that the director of this clinic was a specialist in skin care and obesity. According to what the reporting team found out, however, the director’s specialty was neurology.

“B” Pediatric Clinic, located in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, resembles a pharmacy. Various types of vitamins, health food and cosmetics are on display on one side of the waiting room. In addition, the clinic also runs a “placenta clinic”; “aging clinic” and “partial obesity clinic” within its grounds, although they are not related to pediatrics.

As the number of patients decreases due to the economic slump, physicians, mostly those in small-and-large hospital and clinics, are trying out new fields unrelated to their specialties. This is happening in almost all medical fields, as specialists in obstetrics and gynecology treat aging, dentistry specialists enter the field of plastic surgery, rehabilitation experts treat obesity, and so on.

A Clinic is a Small “Department Store”-

The reporting team confirmed that most neighborhood clinics and certain small hospitals handle almost every field outside their specialty, such as skin disease and obesity. Some physicians go as far as to treat patients in unrelated fields such as neurology and physical therapy.

Many clinics sell vitamins and special cosmetics that have nothing to do with their practice. When a patient asks for information on products that are displayed on a stand in the waiting room, a nurse explains the products.

Chung (42, Bundgang-gu, Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province), who recently visited the dentist, said, “I purchased a vitamin that the dentist recommended, hearing it was good for the teeth and for osteoporosis.”

Willing to Change Specialty as Long as it Makes Money-

The director of “C” Obesity Clinic, located in Nowon-gu, Seoul, originally practiced obstetrics. As the birth rate decreased, however, he switched his field of practice to obesity. The director of this clinic not only treats obesity but also performs surgery that can only be done in a cosmetic surgery clinic.

A female obstetrician and gynecologist also switched her practice to plastic surgery and obesity because of a rapid decrease in the number of patients. She mostly gives botox shots and liposuction of abdomen now.

Most of the medical fields that physicians turn to are plastic surgery, obesity and skin care; fields to which medical insurance does not cover.

Will There Be Damage to Patients?-

The medical community is split over this issue.

The pros emphasize the fact that this is not illegal. One physician said, “Obesity and skin care treatments are easy enough for any doctor to learn and gain skills in,” and added, “If doctors compete against each other, treatment fees will go down and eventually benefit the patients.”

On the other hand, doctors in large general hospitals mostly expressed their concern. One professor refuted the idea, saying, “If anyone can give any treatment, why do we need a specialist system?” and criticized, “An excess of unnecessary medical treatments will increase ill after-effects, eventually harming the patients.”

Sang-Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com