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Considering Tuesdays With Morrie When Facing A Life-Threatening Diagnosis

Film adaptation of "Tuesdays with Morrie"

Many of you know about, or have read, the highly recommended book, Tuesdays With Morrie. I am reading it now with my 14-year-old son, Eitan, as part of an assignment for his ninth grade English class. Morrie, a college professor in Boston, was dying, withering away with ALS. Each Tuesday he would have a visit from one of his favorite former students, Mitch, a journalist from Detroit. Morrie, a man in his 70’s, mused about many things including the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. He was prepared for his end.

The other day I spoke about that book with a former high school English teacher – not Eitan’s. The circumstance was not good. The woman, 37, had been diagnosed with stomach cancer just six weeks ago. She’d been having heartburn and it wouldn’t go away. Endoscopy showed the cancer and other tests revealed its spread to her liver and lung – stage 4. The woman and her husband, her high school sweetheart, sat across from me at lunch. They have three young children, age Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

A Thank You A Day…

This is a guest post by Dr. John Schumann.

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I just read the book “365 Thank Yous” by John Kralik. I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it caught my attention.

Kralik had been down on his luck in 2007: Divorced twice, overweight, with a struggling law firm that he’d started, he was also failing in a new romantic relationship. He was worried about losing his seven-year-old daughter, too, in a custody dispute.

He made a momentous decision: Instead of feeling sorry for himself (easy to do given his predicaments), he decided to be grateful for what he had. To show it, he vowed to write a thank-you note every day for the next year. What do you think happened?

His life changed for the better. His relationship improved. His clients started paying their bills and his firm’s financial footing solidified. His health improved. He eventually achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a judge. To top it off, he turned his personal quest into a writing project. Within minutes of writing a book proposal, he received responses from agents who hoped to shepherd his project. Every writer’s dream.

I’ll grant you that it sounds hokey. But there are a couple of things the book demonstrated to me. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

When A Doctor Is “Spent”

“I need you to do me a favor,” my nurse asked me at the end of our day on Friday.

“Sure,” I answered. “What do you want?”

“Please have a better week next week,” she said with a pained expression. “I don’t think I can handle another one like this week.”

It was a bad week. There was cancer, there was anxiety, there were family fights, there were very sick children. It’s not that it’s unusual to see tough things (I am a doctor), but the grouping of them had all of us trudging home drained of energy. Spent.

I think this is one of the toughest thing about being a doctor (and nurse, by my nurse’s question): The spending of emotional reserves. I’m not physically active at work, yet I come home tired. I don’t have to be busy to feel drained. It’s not the patients’ fault that I feel tired. They are coming to me to get the service I offer to them, and I think I do that job well. The real problem is in me. The real problem is that I care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

Christmas Gifts For My Medical Colleagues

This is my column in December’s Emergency Medicine News:

I like to think back on favorite Christmas gifts I have received down the years. I don’t think I can do any better than the children of mine who were born around Christmas. Three of the four came within one month of Christmas day. One came on December 23rd. What wonderful presents!

Going farther back, I recall sitting by the Christmas tree at my childhood home, or the homes of my grandparents. I found toy soldiers, toy horses, Matchbox cars, pocket knives and many other little-boy wonders. I remember the beautiful wooden stock and golden trigger of my first shotgun, and how it pulled me irresistably into a sense of impending manhood to know that my father and mother trusted me enough to give such a gift.

I have been thrilled to give gifts to my wife and children down the years. I smile when I consider stuffed animals, American Girl dolls, Polly Pockets, toy knights, castles, iPods, bicycles, books, a small harp, and a shiny sword. I admit that I love putting their packages under the tree.

I enjoy hearing about the things my loved ones love. It is my delight to know their hearts and to go and find the perfect thing that, when opened, will make their eyes light up and give them delight.

But there are people other than my family, and there are many kinds of gifts. I can’t help but think that if I were giving the perfect gift to my patients, some would love to open a gold-embossed Oxycontin prescription with the “infinity” emblem under “number of refills.” And others would be speechless to dump out their stocking and find their disability paperwork completed. The tears of joy would flow! Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*

Feeling Pretty Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving here in the States, and I’m feeling pretty thankful. While the day is reserved for turning hand tracings into turkeys, it’s also a good day to highlight what I’m thankful for this year:

I’m thankful that we have a backyard that the cats can go [potty] in, because I was tired of cleaning that litterbox. (And I’m also secretly glad that our neighbors have a ridiculous cat that comes over and starts trouble with ours, because when they pile into the bushes out back and cause the shrubbery to vibrate with their Andy Capp-style battles, it cracks me right up.)

I’m thankful for our family and friends, who have helped Chris and I adjust to our new lives as “parents” and who make “home” a place that matters. We’re so glad to be sharing this chapter of our lives with the people and in the places we love the most.

I’m thankful for having good enough health to take it for granted, and to actually have the luxury of feeling frustrated when I’m “sick” because it’s such a foreign concept.

I’m thankful for the wonderful work opportunities that have come up in the last few years, specifically for the companies and organizations that have embraced the voices of patient advocacy and who have decided to become part of the conversation.

I’m thankful I have an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor that can help me make sense of the holiday meals. Also known as: ”Pie? Yes, please.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

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It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

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I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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