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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My fiancee and I are getting married in early September. We are both in our early 30s and this is the first marriage for both of us. We have been planning our wedding since last fall, and everyone, including a number of out-of-state family members and guests, is looking forward to sharing this special day with us.

Last month, my stepbrother decided to get married three weeks after our wedding. This is his third marriage in 10 years. My fiancee and I are upset that he is not taking into account the conflict this presents to our family and friends -- especially those who must make more than one set of travel arrangements. We are taking our wedding day and marriage very seriously and feel my stepbrother's impulsiveness is distracting everyone.

To top it off, we are planning a long honeymoon and weren't even supposed to be in town on the day of my stepbrother's wedding. I'm afraid we'll look like the "bad guys" for not showing up at his wedding. Should I tell our guests they do not have to travel twice in one month? Should we cut our honeymoon short? -- WORRIED GROOM, NASHVILLE, TENN.

DEAR GROOM: You need not cut short your long-planned honeymoon to accommodate your stepbrother's more recent arrangements. It is up to the prospective guests to decide if they can attend two weddings in the same month. Continue with your plans and change nothing.

DEAR ABBY: This is regarding the letter from the patient who objected to the questions she was asked by her doctor's receptionist. Patients should know that doctors, nurses and medical receptionists have heard everything. Nothing shocks us.

A receptionist frequently needs to know a patient's problem(s) in order to know which physician in the group should see him or her. Some problems are not seen by her physician and are referred elsewhere. But you were 100 percent right when you told the woman to discuss her feelings with her doctor during her next appointment.

In the middle of my solo G.P. practice (before I retired), I noticed that my patient load had dropped more than 50 percent in a very short period. When I investigated, I found my receptionist had informed patients calling for an appointment that I was fully booked for weeks, or I no longer saw new patients for various reasons. None of this was true.

When I confronted my receptionist, she told me she thought I was working too hard and should see fewer patients! I had never turned patients away, and I enjoyed seeing and diagnosing new patients and treating them.

From then on, I gave all patients a questionnaire inquiring how courteously and thoroughly my staff and I had treated them -- had they been given an appointment promptly, etc. No signature was required.

My philosophy has always been: Every doctor makes mistakes, but the better and more thorough the physician, the fewer mistakes are made. -- MARK H. HOPP, M.D. (RET.), GARDEN GROVE, CALIF.

DEAR DR. HOPP: Regardless of how talented the health care provider, I suspect that the practice of medicine is like every other business in that the importance of good customer relations cannot be underestimated. However, in medicine it's called a good bedside manner -- even if the patient is vertical.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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