THE RITCH DOCTOR
RANGE: The Ritch Doctor does not limit his practice to the territory bounded by the first and eighteenth holes; nor does he operate exclusively above the no-parking zones in front of French restaurants. For if his bedside manner is a little brusque at times, you should see him courtside at Wimbledon . . . fireside at St. Moritz . . . pool-side at Puerto Vallarta . . . drink-side at the Dorchester, portside out, and starboard home. And all for taking your insides out!
HABITS: The Hippocratic Oath, which all newly ordained M.D.s are obliged to recite, sounds, to the layman, like a piece of meaningless mumbo jumbo. But it is actually the sacred invocation by which this Spirit of profitable pathology is invoked. It is the Ritch Doctor’s specific, indicated function to direct physicians toward deductible leisure activities, and to otherwise assure them of the financial rewards they deserve in recompense for their years spent in selfless study carving corpses, chasing nurses, and drinking formalin punch at the Residents’ Ball. If a practicing medico conducts the proper rituals honoring the Ritch Doctor (which include shaving extra close, munching breath mints, going bald in front, and keeping one’s hands several degrees below room temperature at all times), then the Spirit of Lucrative Leechcraft will grant said medic certain therapeutic powers. These include a practice composed of attractive, wealthy hypochondriacs; the ability to obtain transfusions directly from the patient’s savings account; the skill to diagnose, cause, and cure psychosomatic illness, and to prescribe for the Body Politic massive, effective antidotes to the threatening plague of Socialized Medicine.
HISTORY: The full origins of the Ritch Doctor’s past are shrouded in medical mystery: recorded in classic sawbone’s scrawl on a prescription pad, they are quite indecipherable. (A pharmacological cryptologist who has examined them suggests that the Ritch Doctor either hails from Attic Greece or is a bottle of Nembutal.) Certainly some benign spirit steered the physicians of old Athens to a better class of client, but then, the magicians of medicine along the Nile and the Druidic faith healers of ancient Britain also seem to have known what strata of their respective societies most needed their compassionate care. The American Ritch Doctor seems to be a (eugenic) hybrid, whose immigrant ancestors may well have met and mingled at the first-ever A.M.A. convention, a thousand painful, profitable, professional years ago. Regardless of his Old World origins, the Ritch Doctor’s practice in the New World dates back to colonial times. Under the benign observation of the Ritch Doctor, all manner of American quacks became wealthy, peddling nostrums, pink pills, patent medicines, and, more recently, holistic life-styles, to (possibly sick but certifiably rich) patients. After the Civil War, for example, the Ritch Doctor wooed away from the unsavory amputation tents many a lucky young medic to serve as senatorial gout consultants. During the Industrial Revolution, the Ritch made men famous with all manner of mechanical and electrical cures for the flat feet, aching backs, and thickening waistlines that their electrical machines had caused them. And even today, R.D., M.D. takes many a struggling intern, seemingly doomed to a career as poorhouse coroner, and inspires him to specialize in Marin County tennis elbow.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: If your family physician listens to your heart through your shirt, guesses your weight, taps his pencil, says “hmmm,” refers you to some kind of -ologist, now takes American Express, and has a beeper which reminds him he’s late for the wine-tasting, chances are that kindly old “Doc” has been consulting with the Ritch Doctor. Ethical M.D.’s (Maryland’s full of them) consult the professional (accounting) Ritch Doctor.