After reading the article about Dr. Rifka and Columbia Hospital (“General Hostility,” 9/4), I felt compelled to write with another perspective. I have been a patient of Dr. Rifka’s since the mid-1980s. He initially diagnosed me with endometriosis (a condition that renders some women infertile) and treated me until 1995, during which time I had two children, now aged 2 and 5. I believe that I am a typical example of why Dr. Rifka generates the medical following that he does. Dr. Rifka had a significant impact on my life because, in short, he cared.
I found the article of interest in terms of the history and problems with Columbia Hospital, but the insinuation in regard to Dr. Rifka and his earnings in a failing hospital I found totally out of touch with Dr. Rifka as a person. Contrary to what was said in the article, Columbia Hospital has benefited from Dr. Rifka’s contributions, not vice versa. I have known him for over 10 years and found him to be not only an extraordinary doctor but more importantly, an extraordinary human being, an unusual combination in these days. It seems as though the fate of Columbia Hospital is uncertain at this point, but whatever happens, let us give credit where credit is due.
Dr. Rifka was a major part of why Columbia Hospital did as well as it did because he cared. He cared about one of the most basic desires of human existenceto give life. Because of him, many couples have been able to conceive who otherwise would not have been able to. I do not believe that this was due entirely to his technological competence, because every step of the way he was dealing with strong human emotion. I believe that his success is due to how he dealt with that human emotion.
From the mid-1980s until 1992, Dr. Rifka performed a number of procedures to eradicate my endometriosis. During this time, I was unsure whether I wanted to have children, but Dr. Rifka encouraged me to keep my options open. In 1992, when I decided to have children, Dr. Rifka evaluated both my husband and myself. He sent my husband to a specialist to surgically correct a condition that would have precluded a pregnancy. Even though statistically it would have taken up to six months for a pregnancy to occur, 10 days after the surgery, I became pregnant. The staff in Dr. Rifka’s office affectionately called the fetus “the miracle baby.”
In 1994, I had a pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage. Dr. Rifka dealt with our concerns with a delicate balance of realism and optimism. He has an exceptional ability to be straightforward and yet charming in his presentation. The end result for me as his patient is the feeling that he is on my side, that we are a team. About a year later, my daughter, Elise, was born.
In 1996, I stopped by Dr. Rifka’s office unannounced with my two children. We were immediately ushered into his office. Dr. Rifka was at his desk. He immediately stopped his work, came over, and smothered Davidson and Elise with kisses and lollipops. At some point, the nurse hinted at the waiting appointment. He walked toward the door and, just before he went in, stopped and looked at me and my two children. He teared up. At that moment I realized why Dr. Rifka did what he did with such compassion and strength. It was all in striving for the end result, birth, life, happiness. My two incredible children are a testament to that.
Your article reflected my personal experience at Columbia Hospital during my two pregnancies. With both children, I had premature labor and required multiple admissions. In 1992, the staff was solicitous. In 1995, the staff seemed apathetic. With the birth of my second child, there were some major errors in my labor, primarily because the charge nurse was unwilling to listen to me. This was all very disillusioning to me from a hospital that had given me the opportunity to have children at all.
In these days where many doctors have ceased practicing or have transformed their practices into operations that are for business purposes only, Dr. Rifka stands out as a doctor that one can trust. He is truly one of a kind, and Columbia Hospital has been fortunate to have him, regardless of what the future holds.
Chevy Chase, Md.