Figuring things out: How to find a doctor in Paris

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my chief duties as an expat is figuring things out. Unfortunately, I would have to give myself low marks in figuring out the French medical system -- it's just something that I haven't wanted to do. One of the main reasons is that I'm tired of developing relationships with doctors only to move as soon as I've become semi-comfortable parading around in their examining room stark naked because there are no such things as modesty and paper gowns in Europe. And even though I've collected recommendations for dentists, doctors, etc., most of them aren't in our neighborhood, so it seemed kind of silly to take the metro to another arrondissement when there are lots of doctors nearby.

Thinking that I would have plenty of time to figure out the doctor situation once our children returned to Boston, I was completely unprepared when what we originally thought were some bug bites on Sara's foot started to spread and look suspiciously like poison ivy* and when I noticed an ugly looking mole* on Philippe's shoulder that wasn't there the last time that I had seen him. Switching from lethargic expat into motivated mommy mode, I told Stephane that we needed to get two appointments with a dermatologist as soon as possible.

Fortunately, a Frenchwoman had advised me to ask our closest pharmacy to recommend a local doctor, so Stephane went to talk with them while I called the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. As soon as Stephane mentioned that we were new to the neighborhood and needed a doctor, the pharmacist pulled out an official list with the names of all of the physicians for whom they had received positive feedback. Within an hour, we had secured appointments with one of the recommended dermatologists for the same day -- pretty amazing when it can take 3-6 months to even get your foot in the door with a dermatologist in the United States and Switzerland. I know because one of my pet peeves is that dermatologists are usually busy doing Botox treatments when you need to see them for something that's potentially urgent.

I'm pleased to report that the dermatologist is very good and that I scheduled an appointment for myself on Friday. The only drawback is that she doesn't speak English, something that came as a bit of a surprise because I'm used to doctors in Switzerland who generally speak several languages.

If you need immediate medical attention in Paris, please refer to Anne's post about SOS Médecins, doctors who make house calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their phone number is 3624.

US Embassy's list of English speaking doctors.

*Sara's spreading inflammation was probably poison oak that she got while at a conference in San Francisco. As poison ivy, oak and sumac is very uncommon in Europe, the dermatologist was excited to see the rash first hand.

*Philippe's mole was the re-pigmentation of the skin from a mole that hadn't been completely removed by the dermatologist in the USA last summer. I had no idea that moles can grow back and now understand why doctors in Switzerland and France prefer to excise them with a scalpel.


  1. Well done, but why not just a regular physician, an internist-general practitioner? Or are they just as difficult to see as well. Once while working in St Barths I cut my finger (on New Years Eve) and had to see a doctor. I went to the pharmacy who called the doctor who said he could see me right away, so I drove over. He spoke good English, thankfully, and doctored up my finger for a tidy sum of Euro150.00.

  2. Hmm, cut finger - New Year's Eve -- any chance that there was also a bottle of champagne in the equation? ;) Thank goodness, though, that the pharmacy was able to find a doctor for you.

    I guess that we could have gone to a general practitioner for Sara's poison oak, but we had already gone to several pharmacies to ask their advice and it's really unknown here. Stephane couldn't even think of the French equivalent for poison ivy, so when I saw Philippe's mole we decided to take them both to the dermatologist. And for suspicious moles, the dermatologist is the first place that I go after my scare with melanoma because I don't want to waste time going to a GP and then to a dermatologist.

  3. I'm being nagged every day by Sir L to figure out our health insurance here as we're part of some global private plan. It requires a call to England which should be easy - I just need to do it. This post is another (good!) reminder!! On my list for tomorrow. Glad everyone in the fam is OK :)

  4. So glad everything turned out so well. Completely understand the reluctance to tackle the healthcare system...probably born from trying to use ours here in the US. I worked for a healthcare company for 7 years and even when you know the system, it can be daunting.


  5. Wow- - that really is amazing that you got appointments the same day, particularly because, as you said, dermos are almost impossible to see in the US. And yet so many Americans steadfastly assert our preeminence in healthcare...

  6. kbh, I know exactly what you mean that the call should be "easy" - but at the same time you've got a lot of other things on your plate, like learning a new language, organizing your life in Paris, trips home, etc. But still, you'll feel better after you make it because then at least you'll know what you should do if you need to see a doctor. Good luck!

    dekage, Thanks. It's good (or perhaps I should say bad) to know that even health-care professionals are occasionally daunted by the system.

    Kate, I was amazed too - especially because while Stephane was at the pharmacy I was also able to get an appointment with the dermatologist at the American Hospital. I quickly cancelled it after Stephane told me that he had found a good doctor in our neighborhood. The American Hospital was very helpful and understanding - good to know if you ever need their services.

  7. Do you now some private informationsites to find english speaking doctors and clincis like this one: like this one but for france and germany? We are going to plan a longer trip to the continent and my wife has diabetes.

  8. Sorry, I don't know of any private websites that provide that kind of information. The only thing that comes to mind are the lists of English speaking doctors compiled by the American Embassies in different countries. Best wishes for your upcoming trip!

  9. Very Nice post. its completely includes healthcare system which is so interesting and helpful for me. i really like to read your post.its really valuable for me.Thanks for sharing.
    doctor search

  10. Thank you for some other informative blog. Where could I get that type of information written in such an ideal means? I have a mission that I’m just now working on, and I have been at the look out for such information.
    лечение в Корее


Post a Comment