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.