An Interview with Dr. Alex Cherkezoff
By Lauren MacFarland
Photographed by Noriko Nasu-Tidball

clip_image002In the heart of Kerrisdale, the senior’s centre serves as a meeting place for the community, constantly filled with activity. Be it for a dance class or just conversation, locals over the age of 65 from all over the area gather in there to enjoy the company of their neighbours. It’s an open and friendly environment, the perfect place for Dr. Alex Cherkezoff to offer his expertise on the health-care system to any senior who might need a second opinion.

The healthcare system can be complex for anyone, but for seniors who may have various concerns they wish to discuss, it is more important than ever to know how to properly talk to their doctor and make the most out of every visit to the local clinic. Patients appreciate small-talk but often it serves better to inform your doctor of your medical issues in a concise manner, as the real challenge will be getting to the root of the problem, the diagnosis.

clip_image003“Doctors will ask the pertinent questions from their own point of view” says Dr. Alex, “but those questions may not be the only one on the patient’s agenda.  The patient is in control of the visit, they control how the visit goes.” Doctors are required to be constantly observant, reading the patient’s body language and gauging their answers to know which line of questioning to follow, that way, they reach the cause of the problem and are better able to treat it. An algorithm system is often the fastest way for doctors to follow through their questioning, but it is the prompts for the patients that will help them down the right track. Different cultures may value different codes of conduct in a doctor’s office, and discussing the details of one’s life may be the norm for some patients, but within the time a visit takes, doctor must work their way through everything from medical histories to lifestyle changes a huge task to complete in a set amount of time.

Barriers to care are numerous and range from personal to monetary to practical, explains Dr. Alex. A patient may simply not feel comfortable with their doctor, be it because they are from a different culture that does not encourage numerous questions or if the doctor is new to them. One may find that those of a certain age, either very old or very young, have an easier time scheduling an appointment. A doctor may be on his own in a small clinic, making it harder for clients to see him in at a time that works with their own schedules as well. And while a simple visit to the doctor may be covered by insurance, visiting other health professionals to receive specialized care can be very expensive and a huge hindrance to those who seek private aid.
When a patient sees a doctor, there are barriers to the care the patient might encounter again. Not being able to explain your problem to the doctor is the main one, but patients might also find themselves giving off too many cues and muddling the waters further. With the advent of several self-diagnosis medical websites, people assume they know what their condition is, reluctant to accept an alternate diagnosis. Occasionally a patient may be unwilling to go through with the proposed examination and an alternate arrangement may be made. When the patient sees the doctor, there are several ways they can make the visit a productive one, such as prioritizing complaints, giving additional information about family and giving feedback on their last visit.  After the visit is over, it rests with the patient to follow up with the doctor’s office when making subsequent appointments, following up on test results and taking control of their healthcare. Of course, the best thing you can do is take the doctor’s advice!

The Lower Mainland is an especially rich area for healthcare, benefitting from the many diverse cultures that have settled here. Different knowledge about medicine and healing means a huge variety of options for those seeking alternative health care treatments that may not be the most obvious choice. The medical school and research capacity of the University of British Columbia positions Vancouver patients to be able to take advantage of the latest medical advancements, and international professors add to the beneficial diversity of the area.

clip_image005Dr. Alex’s reasons for helping the seniors of the area come from years of experience with patients and his recognition of what is needed to make a visit to the doctor as productive as possible. Most of his clients at the Kerrisdale Senior’s Centre are from an earlier generation that is perhaps not as forward in giving helpful information to their healthcare provider. It is so important that everyone knows how to take control of their health and ask if there are ever new treatments for their condition, because in some cases, this knowledge just might save a life.