“I want to go to the best orthopedist.”

I hear this request, or a version of it, all the time. “I want my daughter to see the best cardiologist,” or breast surgeon, or neurologist.

I try to explain to patients that there’s no way to figure out who is the single best doctor in a field, or even what it would mean to be the best. Would it mean the best outcomes? The best patient satisfaction? The best reputation among colleagues?

I try to explain that there is a group in every specialty that practices excellent medicine and maintains an excellent reputation. Of that group I might personally know and trust a handful of them, and I generally try to ensure that doctors are board certified and haven’t been disciplined by the medical board. So in every specialty, I try to refer to a group of excellent doctors, but I have no way of knowing who is “the best”.

The editors of LA Magazine must think the same way. This month’s issue of LA Magazine published a list of top doctors in Los Angeles. To assemble the list, they surveyed doctors asking them which of their colleagues they considered excellent in virtually every specialty. They then screened the list against public databases of complaints and infractions. The list can be searched by name, specialty or geography. In all of LA County only 45 internal medicine doctors made the cut. I’m very proud to have been one of them.

I should spend the rest of the post congratulating myself and asking you to send me your colleagues and loved ones so that I can get my kids through college. Instead, I’ll give a shout-out to the other two internists in our office, Dr. Rubencio Quintana and Dr. Dorothy Lowe. They made the list too, and that’s no surprise. They both have excellent training, and they’re both smart doctors and nice people. So if your colleagues and loved ones are looking for a practice with a limited number of patients, after-hours access to the doctor by cell phone, and guaranteed same-day appointments, please recommend me to them. If they’re looking for a great doctor without those perks, please refer them to Dr. Quintana or Dr. Lowe (so they can get their kids through college).

I browsed the list and found lots of doctors whom I respect and admire, including some who were my professors at UCLA and others with whom I trained.

Then, I thought, what about the doctors who attract lots of patients, but who are not practicing evidence-based medicine? I searched the list for the doctor in Santa Monica who never completed a residency program, has no board certification, whose website states that he practices “regenerative” and ”anti-aging” medicine, and who has prescribed testosterone to every one of my patients who has had the misfortune to enter his office. Then I looked up the Beverly Hills doctor whose website calls her a “hormone specialist” despite having no specialty training in endocrinology and no board certification in any field. She has prescribed risky hormones of dubious effectiveness to more of my unsuspecting patients then I can count. Then I searched the list for the Santa Monica doctor whose website advertises chelation therapy, detoxification, bio-identical hormone replacement, and other phrases that are fashionable in quackery circles. None of them are on the list. Their feel-good placebos and risky hormones might be very popular with patients, but they aren’t fooling their colleagues.

I am deeply honored to be included in such an outstanding group, and I will work hard to maintain the esteem of my colleagues and my patients.

Learn more:
Los Angeles Top Doctors (LA Magazine)
American Board of Medical Specialties (where to check if a specialist is certified by their specialty board)
American Board of Internal Medicine (where to check if an internist is board certified)
Medical Board of California (where to check if a doctor has faced disciplinary action or has been the subject of large malpractice awards)