From Provider to Patient: Lisa Doggett’s New Book Chronicles Her MS Journey

Austin author examines medicine, motherhood, and multiple sclerosis

Provided by Lisa Doggett

Dr. Lisa Doggett balances many roles.

She is the daughter of U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett and education advocate Libby Doggett, and she’s the mother of two daughters. She is a family physician and has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition that affects the spinal cord and central nervous system. She has completed two marathons and biked over 640 miles through participation in four MS 150 Bike Tours. Now, she can add another title to her bio: the published author of the memoir Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Navigating a stressful administrative position at a clinic for Texans without private insurance while parenting two young children, Doggett describes how dizziness and fatigue led to an eventual MS diagnosis. Up the Down Escalator chronicles her journey on both sides of the line between doctor and patient. Despite her difficult situation, Doggett is quick to say that she’s actually lucky. Her position as a physician helped her to receive a diagnosis in weeks rather than months or even years, as is the reality faced by many of her patients. But even with her leg up, Doggett tells the Chronicle she found the health care system challenging to navigate. “Inadequate access to specialists, doctor shortages, other staff shortages, inadequate access to mental health care – those are some really big challenges for everybody, not just people who are uninsured,” she points out.

Doggett often interrupts her story to sprinkle in statistics and studies about the human body and the failures of the health care system. As an Austin native, Doggett also peppers beloved locales throughout her account of her day-to-day life; Austinites will enjoy these in-jokes that make the city more than just a backdrop.

Doggett doesn’t shy away from vulnerability in her narration, describing her anger and frustration over her diagnosis and her daily responsibilities. “I tend to be a pretty bad liar, so I don’t know that it was all that hard for me to put it out there,” Doggett says. “Having MS is really not fun.” But Doggett also frequently struggles with guilt in her narration, chiding herself for self-pity when her patients have it worse.

Her journey to self-acceptance has been a slow one, and she says conversations with her editors have been a continuation of it. “It’s been like therapy in a lot of ways,” she says. “Everybody’s going through something, and it may be relatively trivial compared to what someone else is struggling with, but that doesn't mean that it’s not real.”

Following the publication of her book, Doggett plans to complete her fifth MS 150 Bike Tour, work toward a certification in lifestyle medicine, and join Dell Medical School’s MS clinic as an MS primary care doctor. Doggett hopes that readers will learn more about the challenges of the healthcare system from both sides and find the silver lining in tough situations. “You may even find some good comes out of something that appears to be really bad.”

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Lisa Doggett, multiple sclerosis, Lloyd Doggett

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