Last week I said farewell to my long-time rheumatologist at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Robert Simms has been my trusted scleroderma expert for 22 years. He’s moving on to semi-retirement in New Hampshire, and I wish him only the best. But I will miss him.
We first met when I participated in a BMC research study on treatments for Raynaud’s. The project was directed by the late Dr. Joseph Korn, who founded BMC’s scleroderma program in 1993. I ended up in the control group, so I did not directly benefit from the study. But I did gain a fledgling relationship with Dr. Simms, who was also involved in the research. Soon, he became my go-to specialist for managing chronic infections in my digital ulcers, and, eventually, my primary rheumatologist.
I also gained some confidence from driving into Boston for my monthly research study check-ins. Up to that point, the idea of an hour’s commute from home seemed like a major undertaking, not to mention the terrible (deservedly so) reputation of Boston drivers and traffic. But after a few trips, I realized I could actually manage it quite well. That aha moment led to my realizing I could commute to Boston for a job, and my eventual dozen-plus-years stint as a marketing and communications director at a small Boston-area college.
I surely have not missed the daily commute for the past decade since I left the college, but I’ve continued to drive into Boston (or take the train, when possible), for a variety of commitments, including my regular, 4-month check-ins with Dr. Simms. Whenever we’d meet, he would always take whatever time I needed to fully discuss any issues, as well as to catch up on life. A leading scleroderma researcher, he gave thoughtful, conservative advice. His referrals to other BMC specialists who also understood this complex disease were consistently excellent. I’ve been blessed to be in very good hands.
I trust that will continue to be the case. He introduced me to his protege, who has been with BMC’s scleroderma program for the past seven years, is deeply immersed in research and care for those of us with this complex disease, and seems equally personable, as well. Relationships, especially with even the best physicians, take time to build mutual trust. I’ve grown older with many of my specialists, baby boomers all. So, I’m that much more grateful that I didn’t have to lift a finger to make a smooth transition with such a key member of my medical team.
As we celebrate the arrival of 2020 at midnight tonight, many around the world will join with friends to sing Auld Lang Syne. The phrase literally means “old long since”—or, for old time’s sake. This New Year’s, I’ll drink a cup of kindness to you, Dr. Simms. Thank you for everything.
Image: Ben Wilkins