January 2013

I was, until recently, blissfully unaware of my body’s mass. Gravity? Not really an issue. I moved through life with reliable and reassuring weightlessness. High hurdles? I glided over them in high school, despite the handicaps of being 5-foot-7 and having legs far too short for my ambitions. Soccer? Even as I played through my 40s and well into my 50s, I could accelerate, decelerate, cut, and pivot on instinct, without thought or effort. Not so long ago I still annoyed my wife by bounding into the air and clicking my heels together, just because I could.

But as we finish work on this annual “Top Doctors” issue, I find myself earthbound. I happily ignored a small meniscus tear for months, excusing the need to ice my knee after twice-weekly games as a grudging nod to Father Time. Then I managed to turn a small tear into a big one, and suddenly I’m familiar with my local orthopedist, the inside of his MRI machine, and the vague promise of relief via an arthroscope.

Now there’s an unfamiliar heaviness with everything I do. My body has weight. Dog walks are shorter. I labor to climb stairs. I fret about the distance between my airport gate and the rental car counter, uncomfortably aware that the essential me rides atop a complex conveyance system involving bones, joints, ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and nerves. And I now know, despite a lifetime of warnings from those less fortunate, that health and mobility should never be taken for granted. Ignorance is a pleasure reserved for the privileged, and I’ve been privileged until now.

All of which is to say that, this year more than most, I understand the value of good doctors, and the importance of reliable information about how to find them. My recent travails prompted me to look more closely at the criteria and methods the Orange County Medical Association uses to compile its Physicians of Excellence list, and after doing so, I’m confident it’s filled with names you can trust. I consider it a privilege that Orange Coast is able to bring you those recommendations once again.

So here’s to a healthy 2013—if only for relief from my dog’s accusing stare. 

Martin J. Smith

Illustration by John Ueland

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