As president-elect of the Memphis Medical Society, Phillip R. Langsdon, MD, has set his sights high for his term in office. He wants to help organize a program that has the potential to make the practice of medicine more pleasant and less stressful, not only for himself and his fellow physicians, but also for people such as his daughter, Sarah, who is entering her second year in medical school.
A facial plastic surgeon, Langsdon laments the obstacles placed in front of doctors these days as they try to do their jobs.
“When I look at my own daughter and the other young people coming through, I’m thinking ‘what are we leaving for them?’ because we want our future physicians to be able to practice in a reasonable environment.
“There are so many demands made on physicians, requirements that are laid down by insurance carriers, by hospitals, by the government, licensing boards, certifying boards, by every entity that has anything to say, but there’s no system to assess the impact of all of this on a physician's quality of life or the ability to care for our patients.
“What nobody understands is that there’s only so many hours in the day, and nobody’s measuring that. It’s getting to the point where it’s nearly impossible to do everything that every entity is asking you to do.”
Not that Langsdon has a problem with hard work. It’s what got him to where he is today. He has the Langsdon Clinic in Germantown, where he handles cosmetic procedures, and performs surgery on trauma cases at Regional One Health. He also is chief of the Division of Facial Plastic Surgery at UTHSC.
He was born in Memphis and grew up in Osceola, Arkansas. His mother died of breast cancer when he was 9, and his father, an appliance repairman, raised him and his brother.
“It was eye-opening for a young kid to find out what the world was like at such a young age,” he said.
As a boy he cooked, darned the holes in his socks and ironed patches onto his blue jeans.
“I learned to work at a very young age,” he said. “I do think it’s an advantage. I’ve worried about this some with my own children. When they don’t have those hardships – who would wish that your child would lose a parent? – but when you don’t have those hardships and tragedies, you maybe look at the world through rose-colored glasses a little bit until reality finally comes home.”
Langsdon had fairly good grades in high school but didn’t fare well on the SAT and ACT, in part, he suggests, because of his rural education but also because he hadn’t yet figured school out. He never gave a thought to a career in medicine.
“I didn’t think I had the intellect as a young person,” he said. “Nobody in my family had ever gone to college.”
But he eventually learned how to study, and when he got to college at the University of North Alabama, “I realized I could compete.”
After a year in dental school, he changed his focus to medicine and was accepted into medical school at the University of Arkansas. He immediately knew he wanted to specialize in surgery of the face.
Between roughneck tussles with his brother and a few years of football, including a stint on the team at North Alabama, Langsdon endured six nasal fractures and three operations. The first two operations didn’t go particularly well.
“I decided if I had to go through that experience, I’m going to learn this and I’m going to learn to do it really well,” he said.
After a residency at Indiana University and an additional year of fellowship training in facial plastic surgery in Birmingham, Ala., he came back to Memphis and has been here now for 30 years. His wife, Carol, is a nurse practitioner who works with him at the Langsdon Clinic. She performs some of the non-surgical procedures and, he said, “is integral in the practice and has done a tremendous amount, especially to help raise our four children while working in the clinic.”
As president, he will try to maintain the good work done by the Memphis Medical Society and its partner, the Tennessee Medical Association, including some, he said, that they don’t get enough credit for.
“So many things are done for physicians by these organizations to help maintain a reasonable practice environment,” he said. “But most physicians don’t even know it.
“But there’s much more to do. With reimbursement issues, with malpractice issues and continuing ever-new requirements and demands, we are entering an era where it’s becoming oppressive to practice. What the Medical Society, in addition to all the other things they’re doing, needs to do is to start becoming a conduit for all of these issues we’re dealing with so we can help all of the people we have to work with – the government, insurance companies, hospital administrators – help them understand the challenges because right now nobody is recognizing those challenges.
“And it may seem . . . you don’t get a lot of sympathy. A lot of people don’t have a whole lot of sympathy because a doctor’s got to meet some additional new requirement. But we’re in the business of patient care, and if you’re pressed to see more patients than is feasibly possible or because the reimbursement is so low that you have to see more to stay in business . . . when it gets to that point, the quality of medicine goes down.
“Somewhere along the line organized medicine needs to organize a program to help our partners in patient care understand this compounding time dilemma, so that we have the time to do what we are supposed to do . . . take good care of patients.”
RELATED LINKS: Langsdon Clinic, www.drlangsdon.com; Regional One Health, www.regionalonehealth.org; UTHSC, www.uthsc.edu; Memphis Medical Society, www.mdmemphis.org; Tennessee Medical Association, www.tnmed.org