Giving New Meaning to the Phrase “Rolling Out the Red Carpet”

Foreign Service LifeRecommendationsWashington, DC
October 14, 2011

I had an experience on Wednesday that gave new meaning to the phrase “Rolling Out the Red Carpet.”  It was, hands down, one of the most exceptional service experiences I have ever had.  I imagine you are trying to guess where this incredible service took place.

Nordstrom’s?  Nope.

Trader Joe’s?  Uh Uh.

The Apple Store?  Not this time.

Do I have you stumped?  Well it was none other than a Pediatrician’s Office.  Yup, we were Pediatrician shopping and this was merely one of many consults that Nick and I were doing.  We had not ‘chosen them’ yet, nor did we pay anything for this consult.  Here’s an overview of our experience:

Nick and I arrived at 5:30 PM on Wednesday night for our consult.  We were told to expect a brief tour and the chance to talk to someone on staff.  Most offices do consults in groups, so I was expecting that we’d be one of many there.  Our experience ended up being vastly different than that.  Turns out it was a private consult and we got called in around 5:45 PM and taken back to the Doctor’s personal office where we were given drinks.  Instead of being left to wait alone (while the Doctor wrapped up with a last-minute patient), the office manager sat down and talked to us for the next half hour.

She gave us an overview of the practice, telling us about their philosophies and procedures.  This was all fine and dandy, but I was still a bit annoyed that we were essentially waiting 45 minutes to talk to the Doctor for what I assumed would be a brief 5 minute conversation.  It was hard to stay annoyed because the office manager was so darn nice.  It was also clear that she ADORED the Doctor.

She told a sweet story about an older gentleman their office had “adopted”.  He was a patient (they are a family practice clinic, not just a pediatrician’s office) and after he’d lost his family, he was clearly struggling.  He had a desire to write a book and a need to be around people, so the good Doctor suggested he just come to the office each day and spend the day hanging out in the waiting room writing his book.  He did just that and became a very popular fixture in the waiting room.  Over time, he wasn’t getting much writing done out there, so the Doctor suggested he move to her private office and work there.  And so there he sits each day, enjoying a mixture of reading, writing and napping in her office.  My heart melted over this story and I knew it was a great indicator of what the Doctor’s character would be.

At 6:15 this boisterous, larger-than-life personality walks into the room and announces herself as Dr. Mary Ellen Gallagher.  She immediately shrugs off her white coat, lets her hair down and addresses us like we’re long-time friends.  I couldn’t stop staring.  She takes out a sheet of blank paper and starts writing things about us.  Not medical things, but personal stuff like what we do for our jobs, where we’re from, where we’ve lived, etc.

She was chatty and relaxed; I truly believed that there was nowhere else she wanted to be than right there getting to know us.  She was genuine, fully present with us and 100% invested in our agenda – in fact, she was everything that a good coach is!  I was awed.

The funny thing is, I had a hard time receiving the gift of this experience.  The more she relaxed into our time together, the more agitated I became.  I stared at the picture of her 5 children behind her head and felt guilty for keeping her from them.  I watched the time tick by on the clock and made up stories about how this was too much, how we didn’t deserve her time since we weren’t paying for this or had made no commitment to join her practice.  Now mind you, none of this was being projected from her, it was all my own issue because I was uncomfortable with the generosity of her time and attention.  Amazing how much easier it is to give than receive, huh?

When all was said and done, she had spent over 45 minutes with us (it was after 7 PM when we left).  We had her pager, home and cell phone numbers and her genuine insistence that we never be afraid to call her at any time of day.  In fact, she went so far as to share ‘what not to do stories’ about parents who had driven themselves mad trying to decide whether or not to call.  Her message was very clear: CALL ME, ANYTIME!

Nick and I walked out of that office beaming, knowing that we didn’t need to do any more interviews, and delighting in the fact that we had just had an exceptional service experience.  If you live in the Northern Virginia/DC Area, I cannot recommend this practice enough:

Northern Virginia Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, P.C.

Mary Ellen Gallagher, M.D.
2501 North Glebe Road
Suite 301
Arlington, VA 22207
Phone: 703.527.6664

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  1. Joyce says:

    Send her to Bend. I don’t care what kind of Dr. she is. Wow, what an experience. Never had one like that in all my years. Think I only had one Dr. ever personally call me. She’s a keeper!!!!

  2. Sarah Novak says:

    I know, isn’t that nuts?!? Even your hard-to-impress son dropped his jaw!

  3. Nomads By Nature says:


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