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Latest Posts

Doctors And Aging: 5 Things To Help Good Doctors Stay Good Longer

I asked my age-matched colleague the other day: “Do you think we’ll know when it happens to us?” He responded: “I know. I worry about that, too…a lot. I’m getting out before it happens to me.”

We were talking about our fears of being labeled as an “old” doctor.  Not just old in years — our children and bifocals remind of us of that — but old in our mindset. We fear becoming one of the dinosaur doctors who get known for their excessive attachment to old dogma, premature dismissiveness of novel new approaches, fear of social media, and of course the tell-tail (pathognomonic) sign of agedness, ranting mindlessly in front of Fox news about healthcare reform in the doctor’s lounge.

This transition can happen fast. One moment a doctor might be in their sweet spot — a period of time where the nearness of training meets with the treasure of experience in a capable mind, body and spirit.  Sadly, and obviously this period is finite. It’s limited by aging. Getting older happens to all of us, but the pertinent fact for medical practice is that, like all humans, doctors age at different velocities. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

When Older Doctors Continue To Treat Patients

Did you know that one-third of the country’s physicians are over the age of 65? That’s right, there’s a good chance that your doctor is on Medicare. That’s a concern, because physicians aren’t immune to the ails of aging, and are just as prone as patients to succumb to the effects of Parkinson’s or various types of dementias.

Not comforting if you’re about to undergo an operation, for instance. And absolutely frightening when you consider baby boomers and newly-insured patients will flood our health system in the coming years.

An eye-opening piece from the New York Times highlights the trend. It’s up to doctors and medical societies to report doctors who aren’t able to proficiently perform, but few do. According to the data, the rate of disciplinary action for physicians out of school 40 years was 6.6 percent.

Various tactics to ensure competency have been slow to take off.  Requiring all doctors to re-certify, for instance, isn’t working, since the vast majority of  doctors practicing are “grandfathered” into not being required to take the test. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Too Old To Be Practicing Medicine?

With apologies to the Beatles:

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you see need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m ninety four?”

From the New York Post:

Former NYPD chief cardiologist Dr. Irving Kroop retired in 1986 — when he was 70 — with a $64,364 disability pension awarded because of a bad heart, according to sources and city records.

All the while, he’s maintained a private practice in Brooklyn and moonlighted at NYCERS, the New York City Employees Retirement System, which paid him $14,479 last year to help determine whether other city workers should get disability pensions.

“Hats off to the man — he’s 94 years old but disabled? And still going strong?” said an incredulous Carol Kellerman, head of the Citizens Budget Commission.

Kroop, who gets $155 an hour as a private contractor for city’s civilian pension board, shuffles into examining rooms with a cane and oxygen tank, sources say.

This story presents an interesting dilemma in this era of shrinking retirement income for our seniors who want to continue to work. Should there be an age limit for practicing doctors? How do we assess if a doctor is “disabled” as they age? Should we care? Read more »

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

Connecting With Patients: A Forgotten Piece Of Medicine

I [recently] visited a small town in west Texas to address a local medical society on the emerging role of social media in healthcare.

My presentation involves social media and the evolving relationship that patients share with doctors. I discuss challenges and opportunities -– especially as it relates to transparency, personal boundaries, and even the ethical obligation to participate in the online conversation. I target the disconnected physician and offer education as well as a compelling argument for involvement.

When I arrived at the venue I found that the meeting was attended predominantly by physicians much older than myself.  While waiting to speak, I was concerned that my message of connection and changing relationships would elicit pushback. After all, isn’t it this era of physicians we hold accountable for paternalism and control in dealing with patients? That’s what I’d been lead to believe. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Should Doctors Retire At A Certain Age?

Many people like to make a comparison between the airline industry and the medical industry when it comes to protocols.

Is there a maximum age restriction for commercial pilots in the United States? Yes, there is. In 2007, Congress raised the age of forced retirement for commercial pilots from 60 to 65 years old.

In light of that, should physicians be forced to retire after a certain age as well? Should we trust our health to the abilities of a physician who is 70, 75, 80 years or older? 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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