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Reflections On World AIDS Day – Our Global Dilemma

world-aids-dayWhat does America’s economic recession have to do with a school teacher in Kenya? A lot more than you realize. If there’s one thing I learned at the World Bank’s World AIDS Day event yesterday, it’s that our lives, economies, and health are all inextricably intertwined on a global scale.

Beldina Atieno (second from the left in the photo) traveled all the way from Nairobi to offer her first hand account of life as an HIV+ school teacher in Africa. Ms. Atieno’s story was both heart-wrenching and eye-opening. She was first diagnosed after her youngest daughter became very ill from an opportunistic infection, which prompted HIV testing in both daughter and mother. After discovering that they were both positive, she was abandoned by her husband and was plunged into poverty and despair. Read more »

Medical Bloggers Frolick at Blog World Expo

I am sitting now in the medical blogger track at the Blogworld Expo.

As is generally the case, I got here too late to bum around with the med bloggers last night.  It happened when I went the the “Putting Patients First” summit in DC as well.  I just seem to have that kind of luck.

Anyway, the medical bloggers are forgiving and did not think I was being snooty.  They also didn’t mind it when I missed breakfast with them.  Why did I miss breakfast?  I was being interviewed by Ira Glass from NPR.  For some reason, this little ol’ blog got the attention of the producer from This American Life, the show that Ira hosts.   They are doing a series on health care costs being out of control, and read the post I did in January about the insanity of medical codes.  She felt that I would be a good person to discuss the reality of medical codes in the daily life of a doctor. Read more »

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

NIH Director Francis Collins Jams With Aerosmith’s Joe Perry At Capitol Building

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Rudy Tanzi, Joe Perry, Francis Collins

I know. I was just as surprised as you are. Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project, author of The Language Of God, and new director of the National Institutes of Health performed live in front of a group of Washington locals at the Capitol building today. He actually jammed with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in an “unplugged” performance of Bob Dylan’s, “The Times They Are A Changin’.” This is not the kind of thing one expects in the hallowed halls of the Capitol building. But maybe it’s time to expect the unexpected?

I happened to have my reporter’s microphone with me in the audience so I recorded the song. The vocalist is Dr. Collins, Joe Perry does a guitar solo near the end, and Dr. Rudy Tanzi is on harmonica. The sound quality is… well… it’s what you’d expect from a hand-held microphone. But it’s worth a listen, just to get to know our new NIH director a little better!

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Delta Goodrem

Australian pop star and cancer survivor Delta Goodrem followed Dr. Collins with this acapella beauty (again, forgive the sound quality):

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A few things struck me about the event. First of all, Francis Collins is more of a “firecracker” than I expected. I read and reviewed his book recently, and his vivacious personality did not come through in its pages as well as it did on the stage with Joe Perry. He’s a fun-loving guy, a serious scientist, and very committed to advancing research and encouraging young people to rekindle their interest in discovery. That’s all very good news for America.

Secondly, I was touched by Joe Perry’s story about wanting to be a marine biologist when he grew up. Apparently he had a learning disability of some sort that was not addressed in school. For that reason, his test scores suffered and he looked for ways to excel outside of the classroom. His bright mind discovered an immediate affinity for music, and he poured himself into a career as a rocker. He still yearns for the ocean, though, and is a certified diver. As I looked at Joe, I kept thinking – my gosh, he might have been the next Jacques Cousteau if he had more help in school. But brilliance finds its own way to flourish – and Aerosmith became his outlet instead.

Thirdly, I realized that there are in fact a few congressmen with their heads screwed on straight when it comes to science. I had almost lost hope after watching video footage of Tom Harkin instructing scientists to validate his opinions rather than test whether or not certain things were true. Yikes. But the three co-chairs of the congressional biomedical research caucus, Reps Brian Bilbray, Mike Castle, and Rush Holt, seemed to truly understand some of the issues facing the advancement of medical research – and are determined to move America forward.

And finally, I noted that there wasn’t a single female or minority “rock star scientist” in the program. That made me a little bit sad. Are we really that rare? I guess we still have a long way to go on that front… And since Dr. Collins mentioned that only 15% of US students are enrolled in science or engineering bachelors’ programs (compare that to 50% in China or 75% in India) we are soon going to be playing catch up with the rest of the world in terms of scientific discovery.

So we’ve got our work cut out for us folks – with our youth’s waning interest in science education, the excessive red tape that is slowing down the process of producing cures, and the public getting their medical advice from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, there has never been a more important time to restore science to its rightful place.

Maybe Francis Collins is going to “bring sexy back” to science?

Whatever works!

***

More info on the Rock Stars Of Science program.

Tilting At Windmills In Washington

Once again, I have to thank Dr. Val Jones for setting up the Putting Patients First event at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Friday. For a full summary of the pagentry, Dr. Rich does a much better job summarizing the whole event than I ever could, though I was uh, surprised about what he said of me (thanks, dude).

But one thing he forgot to mention was the moment when our moderator asked us what struck us most about what Congressman Paul Ryan had to say in his speech to us. I, being ever soft-spoken, piped up that I was struck that no one had read the bill and it was already on its way to the floor after being completely “marked up” early that very same morning.

So, while we might not have been chasing windmills at this event, I couldn’t help but wonder if it might come to this (with appologies to GA Harker, whose illustration I couldn’t help but Photoshop):

Click image to enlarge

-Wes

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Better Health Sponsors Blogger-Politician Healthcare Reform Discussion At National Press Club

To join the event live, please contact john.briley@getbetterhealth.com Seating is limited…

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Congressman Paul Ryan

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Media Personality Rea Blakey


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Health Care Reform: Putting Patients First

Elected Officials Join America’s Top Medical Bloggers to Discuss the Real,

Clinical Impact of Health Care Reform

    WHAT: As the health care debate heats up on the Hill, join Representative Paul Ryan as he sits down with top medical bloggers from across the country to discuss health care reform and its impact on practicing clinicians. This keynote discussion will be followed by two panels of physician and nurse bloggers who will highlight the importance of putting patients first.  Topics covered will include key barriers to health care quality, affordability, and access as well as the potential pitfalls of a new public plan and ways to fix the current system without investing billions in a new one.

WHEN: Friday, July 17, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
WHERE: The National Press Club, Broadcast Operations Center 4th Floor, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC
WHO: Keynote: Representative Paul Ryan, (R-WI), House Budget Committee Ranking MemberModerator: Rea Blakey, Emmy award-winning health reporter and news anchor, previously with ABC, CNN, and now with Discovery Health

Host: Val Jones, M.D., CEO and Founder of Better Health

Policy Expert: Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., co-founder and vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI)

Primary Care Panelists:

Kevin Pho, M.D., Internist and author of KevinMD

Rob Lamberts, M.D., Med/Peds specialist and author of Musings of a Distractible Mind

Alan Dappen, M.D., Family Physician and Better Health contributor

Valerie Tinley, N.P., Nurse Practitioner and Better Health contributor

Specialty Care Panelists:

Kim McAllister, R.N., Emergency Medicine nurse and author of Emergiblog

Westby Fisher, M.D., Cardiac Electrophysiologist and author of Dr.Wes

Rich Fogoros, M.D., Cardiologist and author of CovertRationingBlog

And Fixing American Healthcare

Jim Herndon, M.D., past president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and Better Health contributor

####

For more information on Better Health, visit http://www.getbetterhealth.com.

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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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