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Glen Campbell “I’ll Be Me” Movie Documents His Final Years With Alzheimer’s Disease

Country music legend Glen Campbell is dying of Alzheimer’s disease. In an effort to raise awareness of the illness he and his family made the brave decision to bare their lives by creating a documentary of Glen’s farewell tour. I highly recommend that you watch this film with your loved ones… and a box of Kleenex.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Glen’s disease was the preservation of his musical abilities despite severe cognitive impairment. Although he rarely knew where he was or even how to tie his shoes, he was able to perform songs in front of live audiences. With redirection and prompting, he managed to participate in 151 concerts across the United States within the span of ~18 months. Accompanied by his gifted guitarist son and daughter, and his doting fourth wife Kim, Campbell was able to maintain his musical self for longer than his physicians ever anticipated.

The documentary held nothing back – from violent outbursts brought on by paranoid delusions of golf club theft, to inappropriate table manners, to hypersexuality triggered by too high a dose of Aricept – the trials and tribulations of being a caregiver for someone with dementia were painfully acute. In brief moments of insight, Glen himself would manage to stammer a “Thank you. For being so nice to me. I have been an ass.”

One of the saddest moments of the movie was a brief clip of his daughter testifying before congress. She explains that memories are what lives are made of – and that although she is holding fast to the memories made with her dad, she knows that soon he will not even know who she is, and that their time together will be meaningless to him. Campbell listens silently next to her with a pained expression and misty eyes.

The movie’s final song, artfully strung together from clips of Glen singing repeat phrases into a studio mic, is haunting:

“I’m Not Going To Miss You”

I’m still here, but yet I’m gone
I don’t play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you ’til the end
You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.
Not gonna miss you.
I’m never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You’re never gonna see it in my eyes
It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry
I’m never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I’m not gonna miss you
I’m not gonna miss you

Alzheimer’s is a terrible, cruel disease. I share the frustration of the Mayo Clinic neurologists who treated Glen Campbell – unable to do much more than simply document his decline and mentally prepare his family for the next stages of the disease. To all those who are taking care of people with Alzheimer’s I offer my sincere admiration and respect. To those who face a genetically higher-than-average chance of contracting the illness (such as myself), I tremble and hope for a cure.

Building Programs For People Living With Serious Conditions

I can’t get the 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams out of my head. That’s especially true right now as I can’t wait for the seventh game of the World Series. My son, Eitan, and I sat on the couch and watched the sixth game last night and it was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever seen. Plot twists galore. You can bet the audience for tonight’s game will be HUGE.

What’s so cool in thinking back about the movie is the famous line said to the baseball fanatic farmer: “If you build it they will come.” So he built a baseball field behind his house and the greats of baseball history came to play. I have never forgotten that line and have applied it to what we “build” at Patient Power – interview programs for people living with serious health concerns.

In the past few weeks, and continuing from now on, we have been focusing on two blood-related cancers: multiple myeloma and chronic myelogenous leukemia. While there are other educational resources out there, people living with these serious conditions always want more – as well they should. Fortunately, Read more »

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

How Contagion Shows Us The Importance Of Science In Today’s World

Contagion is a thriller about a virus that rapidly spreads to become a global epidemic. There aren’t enough coffins. Gangs roam neighborhoods like ours because police have abandoned their posts, fearful of exposure. Garbage fills the streets because sanitation workers are dying. As scientists work feverishly to understand the virus and develop a vaccine, public panic unravels the fabric of civil society, fueled by terror and rattled by false claims of a homeopathic cure promoted by a charismatic charlatan.
The movie has grossed $76 million worldwide since it opened on September 9th.  It has all the elements a successful movie needs: a just-believable dystopian vision of the future, flawed good guys, an evil schemer, suspense, heroic action…the works.

And while it’s an action-thriller first and foremost, you don’t have to concentrate hard to notice that it also shows:

  1. Why the Federal government is necessary: its authority to communicate, negotiate and work with other nations to solve a global problem; its ability to exert authority across state lines and to marshal resources immediately to protect its citizens from peril with no expectation of profit.
  2. How scientific research is iterative and complicated, not bumbling or malicious. Research is conducted by scientists—normal people with normal lives—who are Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Food, Inc. The Movie: Should You Be A “Locavore?”

I have never been one to shy away from the truths about our world. An Inconvenient Truth was a movie that affected many of us profoundly. Most of my family does not like Al Gore because they are in denial about what is happening to our planet, and our role in that. A new movie does the same about our food sources in America. It is called Food, Inc. It may upset you, but I highly recommend it. The authors explore just where our food comes from, the chicken, the beef, the grains and how our big corporate food industries operate.

I am not an anti-corporate person. I agree with Calvin Coolidge that the business of America is business. In our modern life, we have accomplished many things through industry. Our supermarkets contain a richer variety of food than ever available before in the history of mankind. But, there are important issues for us to address. What are the implications of feeding our cattle corn meal when that is not their best food source? What danger do we have of serious bacterial contamination? How do the big food corporations treat our farmers? These are all questions explored in this film. Like Anderson Cooper on CNN, this film “keeps them honest”.

Two of the main characters in the movie are authors I admire a lot: Eric Schlosser, who wrote Fast Food Nation, and Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. These men are dedicated to keeping our food supply safe and healthy and for us to avoid the traps that make us unhealthy and obese.

Should you become a “locavore”? That is a new word to describe someone that only eats locally grown food. That may be an option for some but not for others depending on where you live. Locally grown food, like what is found in a Farmer’s Market, is more likely to be fresh and have fewer questions than other commercially developed foods. I saw an interesting bumper sticker today, “Supermarkets have branches, Farmer’s Markets have roots”.

The tagline for Food, Inc. is “You’ll never look at dinner the same way again”. I must say that is true. I continue to shop in supermarkets and eat in restaurants, but I am much more mindful about what I put in my body. We all should be.

*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*

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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