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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I sympathize with "Harassed M.D. in Des Moines," who asked how to handle people who ask for professional advice in social situations. I suspect this problem goes along with the prestige of saying, "I'm a physician."

My most memorable request came from a 60-year-old woman who asked me to look at her bunions during my friend's wedding. Fortunately, my pediatric population doesn't suffer from bunions, so I couldn't provide her with any remedies.

When I'm at social gatherings and am introduced as "Doctor," I jokingly say, "The doctor is not in her office at this time." Then I ask people to call me by my first name. In this way I let them know I am a person, not a doctor on duty. I also find this to be an ice-breaker for those who might feel intimidated meeting an M.D. -- HARASSED COLLEAGUE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR H.C.C.: That's a good solution. Here's another:

DEAR ABBY: I, too, am a surgeon. Frequently people -- usually women -- approach me at parties to ask about some medical problem they're having. The "problem" is usually minor and most often dermatologic, though knowing I'm a thoracic surgeon, they'll occasionally mention a chest problem.

Such questions never bother me, for after all, I know more about medicine than any other subject, so if appropriate, I offer a straightforward answer. On other occasions, choosing my "victim" carefully, I'll tell her, "Go into the bedroom, take off all your clothes, and let me know when you're ready."

Fortunately, no one has ever taken me up on my facetious offer. The usual responses are, "May I take my drink along?" and "Who will referee?"

As my father, also a physician, used to say: "A smile makes all things possible." -- CARL A. BROADDUS JR., M.D., WINTER PARK, FLA.

DEAR DR. B.: Your father was a shrewd observer of human nature. However, I'd be careful if I were you. One of these days someone's going to call your bluff.

DEAR ABBY: I can't resist telling you about my French mother-in-law's comments at a party I threw to introduce her to my American friends.

Upon meeting Dr. A., she began reciting all her health problems. I interrupted her, explaining that his specialty was psychiatry. After digesting this for a moment, she caught his sleeve. "Then you must help me with my interior complexion," she explained. -- AVID READER, WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.

DEAR READER: Your m-i-l wasn't so far off base. In a sense, psychiatry is focused on the "department of the interior."

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Harassed M.D." reminded me of a joke I heard years ago:

A physician and an attorney were discussing the problem of people seeking their professional opinions at parties.

"What do you do?" asked the physician.

"I usually give them the information and then send them a bill," replied the attorney.

Five days later, the physician received a bill in the mail. -- KATHY JOOSTEN, LOS ANGELES

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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