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May We All Die So Well

Everyone liked him. Though his later years (the only ones in which I knew him) took away his ability to do most things, and though he was in great pain every day, it was easy to see the mischief in his eyes. The subtle humor was still there, coming out of a man who was weak, in pain, dying.

She lived for him. She was always telling me of his pain, frustrated with the fact that he didn’t tell me enough. She was anxious about each complaint of his, wondering if this was the one that would take him away from her. Many of her problems were driven by this anxiety and fears, and she spent many hours in my office giving witness to them through her tears.

As his health failed, I wondered about her future. He was the center of her life, the source of her energy, joy, purpose. How could she manage life without him? How could she, who had so much lived off of the care of this wonderful man, find meaning and purpose in a life without his calming presence?

Then he died. Read more »

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

Medicine Won’t Fix Life

The man who twirled with rose in teeth
Has his tongue tied up in thorns
His once expanded sense of time and
Space all shot and torn
See him wander hat in hand -
“Look at me, I’m so forlorn -
Ask anyone who can recall
It’s horrible to be born!

- Bruce Cockburn, from song “Shipwrecked at the Stable Door”

I found the discussion around my recent post about treating colds very interesting. Sick people come to the office to find out how sick they are. Most people don’t want to be sick, and when they are sick they want doctors to make them better.

Most people.

Some people want to be sick, and some doctors want to make people sick. I am not talking about hypochondriacs — people who worry that they may have disease and become fixated on being sick. I am not talking about malingerers — people who pretend to be sick so they can get medications. I am talking about the slippery slope of defining disease. Read more »

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

The Impact Of Attitude On Life

Life sometimes gets in the way of daily posting. Specifically, the treadmill of life sometimes roars too fast.

But as I strolled through the hospital this morning, there was a plain piece of white paper taped to the wall around the nurses station. Although I’m not overly religious (and even highly conflicted about which rituals are the right ones), these words from a pastor/celebrity stopped me for a moment:


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.

It will make or break a company, a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change the past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is plan on the one thing that we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.  And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.

As a cardiologist programmed to “alert” most of the time, words such as these help me. I haven’t seen the studies yet, but I’m guessing that positive attitudes reduce inflammation, which is good for our atria, and our arteries.


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

Foundations Of Life: Still Dancing At 93

Dance legend Mary Anthony has had a life-long love of dance. At 93 years old, she continues to dance and teach students. Dr. Jon LaPook talks with Anthony about her philosophy on life.

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Dancing At 93 Years Old

Twenty-five years ago, Jennifer Dunning wrote in The New York Times: “DANCE doesn’t seem to take much stock of its wise elders. Among those veterans is Mary Anthony, one of the city’s most highly respected modern dance teachers.” I’m a big fan of wise elders. It’s how I learned medicine.

So when I got the chance to meet the now 93-year-old Ms. Anthony earlier this week, off I went to her beautifully-lit, peaceful but active studio in the East Village of New York City. My goal as a doctor: try to gain some insight into her longevity. Yes, genes are important and she certainly chose the right parents. Exercise and diet are important (she still dances and is a vegetarian). But — more interesting to me — what have been the emotional and philosophical foundations of her life? Read more »

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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