Dr. George Kroker is a partner at Allergy Associates of La Crosse, a co-author of the La Crosse Method™ Protocol, and has been practicing allergy for 38 years. During his time as an allergist, he’s not only helped thousands of people overcome their allergies, but has done so while practicing kindness and compassion along the way.
He starts each morning by entering his exam room alone and sitting in the patient’s chair. He thinks about his day and how patient after patient will sit in that very chair, nervous, oftentimes filled with fear, and longing for answers. This daily role reversal is his first step toward seeing his patients as unique individuals deserving of the best allergy care, delivered with compassion.
Because of his long tenure as an allergist, I spoke with Dr. Kroker to get his insight on what makes an ideal allergist. Knowing these characteristics might help potential new patients in their search for an allergy provider. He narrows it down to three characteristics he believes every allergist should have; technical expertise, wisdom, and compassion.
1. Technical Experience
This, arguably may be the easiest box to check. It consists of the “how and what” of allergy testing. Dr. Kroker says, “Technical expertise is knowing when to do a test, how to do a test, and how to interpret the test. I think those things are extremely important, of course, and to a large extent everybody expects an allergist to possess this technical competence.”
Wisdom is being able to look further than the tests and into the patient’s medical history – hear their story – and diagnose and treat from there. It represents appreciating the disease and the potential ways to manage it within the patient’s social and cultural context.
“I remember being a relatively young doctor here, 30 years ago, and a farmer sat in my office on his first visit with me and said ‘do I have to quit farming because of my condition?’ and I thought the world had just descended on me. Here’s a nice man, and he’s asking me to determine his future. What do I say to that? This is where wisdom comes into play.”
“In my opinion, compassion is the most important characteristic because it drives the other two,” says Dr. Kroker. “If you really care about the patient, you will want to be as good as you can be with your technical expertise, and you’ll want to develop wisdom because it’s more than a job. Compassion is about seeing someone sitting in the chair, and thinking of them as a person you care about, and you really want to help. To me, that’s the driving force. If you’re not helping that person, you will try to think outside the box to help them. If you can’t help them with what you’re already doing, you’ll admit it, and begin the search for other answers. It isn’t ‘my way or the highway,’ and you’ll keep looking for help for them.”
Dr. Kroker states, “I am often surprised when a patient of mine can recall having ‘skin testing’ done by an allergist, but can’t even remember his/her name. This issue is surprisingly common, and I think is a sad reminder of the need in our field for more allergists with the three traits mentioned above.”
Dr. Kroker’s Experience
Dr. Kroker’s compassion stems from his passion to treat the cause of a condition in order to create lifelong health. He understands how chronic conditions can impact a person’s life, as he has many chronic conditions himself. “I like to talk to people who have had some suffering because it’s like coming home when I see those people. Very often I can identify with the struggles they are going through and try to help them in any way I can.” Dr. Kroker sees many complicated cases in people who have almost lost hope in finding a solution, and being able to relate and show empathy for what they are going through creates a sense of comfort.
Dr. Kroker was lucky enough to gain a lot of his wisdom from Dr. David Morris, founder of Allergychoices and the La Crosse Method™ Protocol. Dr. Morris realized the need for treatment that went beyond what traditional treatment could offer for his patients and created a solution. Dr. Kroker says, “When Dr. Morris founded the clinic, he thought outside the box, cared enormously for his patients, he developed immense wisdom over the years, and always was trying to refine his technique. He was the absolute epitome of what I call a great allergist, and I’ve modeled my whole career after him.”
Dr. Kroker and his colleagues have built a model that reflects this philosophy. For patients looking for those characteristics in providers closer to home, Dr. Kroker suggests word of mouth as a valuable tool. He says, “To some extent it’s very hard for patients.” Ask around, look for reviews online, and don’t feel stuck. If your allergist doesn’t fit the criteria, it’s okay to move on.
“The thing that’s wonderful about our profession is that we have chronic diseases that we can potentially reverse with our treatment, which is unique to our field,” Dr. Kroker says of allergy. Treating allergy is a powerful tool toward optimal health. That’s why Kroker and his colleagues published and share their protocol, the La Crosse Method, with other allergy providers who are interested in thinking outside of the box and providing a treatment that works conveniently and effectively.
By sharing this protocol through Allergychoices with providers around the country, Dr. Kroker and colleagues hope to help more patients and providers connect, and to bring hope to those allergy patients waiting anxiously in the chair for answers. The pairing of the La Crosse Method with technical expertise, wisdom, and compassion represents the apex of allergy care and makes it a joy to practice allergy, as Dr. Kroker found out over his 38 years of practice.
Note: Dr. Kroker retired in 2019.