“Dr. No”: A Tale of Two Doctors

Practical Applications for Body Language and the Difference Confidence Can Make

By David Schneer

6-Minute Read

“Dad?” the voice cracked at the other end of the phone. “Mike,” I excitedly replied, having not heard from him in a while. “How are you?”[1]

“Not so good, Dad. There’s a bump on my neck.” I swallowed hard. By now it had grown into the the size of an apricot. “They think it might be cancer.”

My stomach sunk, like when a plane suddenly drops altitude. I felt sick. Six years before, Michael lost his mother to cancer. Please no, I thought. Not again.

Michael would spend his 30th birthday in the hospital for a biopsy. Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He would undergo surgery, chemotherapy and then radiation—but he would survive.

The first doctor with whom we met came very highly recommended, but, in the end, left us deflated. Why?

Meet “Dr. No”

That’s not the doctor’s real name, of course. That’s what I nicknamed him after our first visit. He entered the room, hunched over the records he held in one hand, extending to Michael a (pre-Covid-19) dead fish handshake with the other. He introduced himself. With a curt nod, he barely acknowledged my presence.

Dr. No spun his rickety computer stand around like a dance partner. Staring intently at his screen he mumbled to himself: “Um.” “Uh-huh.” “Yep.” “I see.” Michael and I sat there dumbfounded. What did that mean?

“Okay,” Dr. No, said, “Follow me and my assistant will explain the treatment and get you scheduled.” All business, this guy, I thought.  Like that, Dr. No vanished. We never did see him again, but he left a negative indelible impression on us. Why?

Dr. No missed the bedside manner lecture while in med school. No meaningful eye contact, no meaningful touch, no visible empathy for us, no genuine smile, and no outwardly visible signs of confidence. Dr. No asked hardly any questions and answered few. Hence, Dr. No.

The ride home that day was quiet. Exhausted, Michael fell asleep, his breathing shallow through a gaunt face. I was numb. REROUTING, the navigation system screamed! REROUTING! I missed the exit trying to beat back the feelings of utter uselessness. Tears rolled down my cheek.

Four Days Later: Mountain View Community Hospital

Now, juxtapose that with our experience meeting Dr. Dormady[2]. A Stanford Medical School Graduate with a Ph.D. in Hematology & Oncology, Dr. Dormady entered the room rim-rod straight, turned toward Michael and extended a sturdy handshake. With his other hand, he gently touched Michael’s left shoulder, saying “Hello Michael” I’m “Dr. Shane Dormady, and we’re going to kill this Lymphoma.” He added, “This is my specialty, and we are going to knock this out of your body.” Then he turned to me, extended a hearty handshake, and said, “Don’t you worry Dad, I got this.”

Dr. Dormady asked Michael about his plans, which included getting back to school after treatment. He had total eye contact, reinforced by touching. He stood ready with straight shoulders, feet and torso facing us. His deep soft voice soothed us as he described the treatment process. He exuded confidence and it dripped all over us.

Compared to the previous ride home, the ride home from Dr. Dormady was as different as two days can be. Michael was wide awake and energized. The color had come back to his face, and he had a genuine smile that stretched wide his crow’s feet. His breathing was rhythmic, and his voice was full throated. He seemed cured— even though he hadn’t been treated yet!

Michael’s healing started that day with a big dose of hope, administered by Dr. Dormady’s confidence.

Certainly, Dr. No could have cured Michael, given the diseases’ known high cure rate. Dr. No came from a very prestigious Ivy League medical school. He had cured numerous other patients. He worked in a San Francisco Bay Area hospital system known worldwide for its cutting-edge care. But did Dr. No leave us with a feeling of hope and confidence? Frankly, no.

Here is a quick comparison to show the difference confidence can make:

Michael’s cancer remitted, and he was able to graduate from San Jose State University.

Grateful, we picked up an extra-large California Berkeley t-shirt for Dr. Dormady as a heartfelt thanks (with a little Cal-Stanford rivalry sprinkled in) for curing Michael. He was out of the office the day we stopped by to deliver it.

When we entered his office to leave the shirt, we were stunned. The good doctor’s office was strewn with unwrapped presents from others he had cured.

Visible proof of the hope his confidence inspired. Most Communications is Nonverbal. Are You Fluent?

[1] With complete permission from Michael, who wishes you good health. And if you need to, please see Dr. Dormady. Tell him Michael sent you.

[2] Shared with full permission from Dr. Dormady himself.