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Medical Aspects Of “The King’s Speech”

Over the weekend I went to see “The King’s Speech.” So far the film, featuring Colin Firth as a soon-to-be-king-of-England with a speech impediment, and Geoffrey Rush as his ill-credentialed but trusted speech therapist, has earned top critics’ awards and 12 Oscar nominations. This is a movie that’s hard not to like for one reason or another, at least most of the way through. It uplifts, it draws on history, it depends on solid acting.

What I liked best, though, is the work’s rare depiction of a complex relationship between two imperfect, brave, and dedicated men. At some level, this is a movie about guys who communicate without fixating on cars, football (either kind), or women’s physical features. Great! (Dear Hollywood moguls: Can we have more like this, please?)

The film’s medical aspects are four, at least: The stuttering, the attitude of physicians toward smoking, a closeted sibling who had epilepsy and died at an early age (just mentioned in passing), and the king’s trusted practitioner’s lack of credentials.

At the start, Prince Albert (young King George VI) has a severe speech impediment. It’s said that he stutters, and on film Firth does so in an embarrassingly, seemingly extreme and compromising degree. He’s the second of George V’s sons, and might or might not succeed to the throne depending on events in history, his older brother’s behavior, and his capacity to serve the Empire at the brink of war. Being effective as the king of England in 1936, and especially at the start of war in 1939, entails speaking confidently.

Prince Albert’s been through the mill with doctors who’ve tried to help him talk. Some recommend he smoke cigarettes — these, they advise, would help him to relax because they’re good for the nerves, they say. One asks him to speak with a mouthful of marbles, on which this doctor watching the film worried he might choke. Eventually Albert’s wife, Elizabeth (Queen Mother to be), finds a speech therapist in London, Lionel Logue, who uses unorthodox approaches with, by rumor, exceptional results. Eventually Prince Albert — or “Bertie” as the therapist insists on calling him — trusts and accepts help from this peculiar Australian who, it turns out, developed his methods of assisting stutterers through his work with shell-shocked soldiers in WWI. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

Why Every Pregnant Woman Needs To Do A Background Check

The journey to a healthy pregnancy and delivery begins with the selection of a healthcare provider, and the challenge is to find the right one. This is the person who will be in charge of your pregnancy up until the time of the delivery, so it certainly is not a casual date. For the next 280 days your life and the life of your unborn child will be in this person’s hands. A background check is therefore in order.

One of the best ways to find the right healthcare provider is by word-of-mouth referral from neighbors, friends, or family members however please don’t stop there. Labor and delivery nurses are also a great source of referral because they have seen physicians and midwives under their most vulnerable and challenging moments.

Don’t feel intimidated about checking a provider’s credentials — this is public information. You can find out whether the provider’s medical license is current or expired. You’ll also be able to obtain information on whether the provider has ever been disciplined by the board for medical malpractice or unprofessional behavior or misconduct. Healthcare providers are not exempt from problems with alcoholism, drug addiction, professional incompetence, and unprofessional or unethical behaviors. Although less than five percent of healthcare providers have egregious problems, you want to make certain that your provider is not one of them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

3 Things That Make A Better Doctor

On Monday, NPR’s Scott Hensley posted:

“Between the Internet and all the data insurance companies and the government collect on doctors, you’d think it would be a lot easier than it used to be to find a good one. But it’s not.”

Sound familiar around here? See his thoughts: “3 Tips For Picking A Slightly Better Doctor.”

(Thanks to friend Cindy Johnson for the tip.)

*This blog post was originally published at*

Breast Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment: Can Women Trust It?

The news wasn’t good this week for women concerned about breast cancer.

First came the story that some women were diagnosed with breast cancer, very early stage, had treatment –- including disfiguring surgery -– and then found out they never had cancer in the first place. The pathologist goofed, maybe even a second pathologist also misread the biopsies.

How does this happen? Not surprisingly it comes back to the clinical experience of the doctor. Properly diagnosing breast cancer, whether through radiology scans or pathology biopsies is not always easy. And in many communities the general radiologists and pathologists just don’t have enough specialized experience. This leads to mistakes, especially when the suggestions of possible cancer are subtle and minute. Read more »

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

Who Is This “Eye Doctor” Anyway?

Eye Doctor SignI snapped this picture of “The Eye Doctor Is In!” sign at my local Sam’s Club. Who is this “eye doctor?” Are they a Dr. Nurse? Are they an optometrist? Are they a medical doctor? What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist? The sign just says “eye doctor.” Who is it? Who knows. What are their credentials? Who knows.

To practice optometry, an optometrist must graduate from an accredited four-year post graduate institution after completing at least three years of undergraduate preoptometry course requirements and then get licensed in their state of practice.

To practice ophthalmology, an ophthalmologist must graduate from an accredited four-year medical school after completing the 90+ undergraduate premedical couurse requirements, then complete a residency in ophthalmology which consists of an internship year in internal medicine or general surgery and three years or more of additional training in ophthalmology. Then they must get licensed by state authorities.

The lay public — the really lay public – has no idea what the state and federal licensing standards are for the different professional clinical training tracks. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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

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

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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