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Leaving The Organization But Not The Practice Of Medicine

I confess ignorance. I know nothing about interviews with vampires. However, last week on my drive to a house call to see a sick patient, I experienced a sudden respect for author Anne Rice. I listened to a stranger completely off my radar screen being interviewed on NPR saying and making me feel the meaning of the phrase “Evil needs but one thing to grow. It is for good people to do nothing,” and reminding me that throughout history there have been numerous times where groups, organizations, and governments have acted even in ways that don’t represent our values or feel wrong minded or appear short sighted.

This statement was her simple explanation for a recent blog posting announcing she was resigning from Christianity. She remained a believer in God and in Christ, but no longer would listen to the Church tell her what to think, when and how to believe, or define truth while trying to control belief and the process. Read more »

Career Counselor? Thoughts On Becoming A Doctor

As a physician, I’ve had several people ask my “honest” opinion of their plans to become a doctor. I know what my response is to this question, but I wonder what others in my profession would answer. Would your response depend, in large part, on who’s doing the asking — could you answer your own child as you would someone you just met? Be careful, your answer to this question, if honestly given, might shine an unsettling light on your own feelings about your current career choice.

Last week I spoke with a college junior working to fulfill her lifelong plans to become a physician. She told me about a recent conversation with her own doctor where she shared her plans to go to medical school and he’d tried to dissuade her. She couldn’t recall a single cogent reason given for avoiding the medical profession, yet it appeared to me that his odium had negatively imprinted her image of the medical profession, which is a shame. At this time more than ever, we –- doctors and patients alike — need to encourage the most talented of our youth to join the medical profession. Read more »

The Canary And The Primary Care Physician

The vexing problem with “truth” when it comes to healthcare is to understand its limits. Let’s start with two  popular notions. The first: canaries are harbingers for detecting chemical leaks. The second: primary care specialists claim higher salaries for their work will prevent their extinction. Both claims sound plausible, but then come the conditions, the nuances, the variables and empirical testing and observation — the so called threads of truth.

Notion 1, The Canaries: In 1972 my brother passed through the military’s basic training and was Vietnam bound until a perfect score on a standardized test, his Phi Beta Kappa and a chemistry degree from college rerouted his destiny to a remote patch of the Utah desert. Instead of being a foot soldier, he gave back to his country in a chemical warfare lab. Read more »

Medicine Vs. Religion: My Brother’s Keeper Revisited

A few weeks back, I had introduced a patient who was willing to let her religious beliefs stand in the way of receiving the proper medical treatment she needed to stay alive. I want to revisit with you this dying patient, who hadn’t known me or any doctor for over 30 years.

As the rest of the family, who were not as committed to a religious path, stood by her expectantly, I said to her: “I had a brother who was a true believer in the power of God and that faith could heal all things or be called God’s will. Like you, he was a competent adult in charge of his decisions. He wouldn’t listen to anyone else — not his wife, father, mother, children, brother — not even me, the doctor. He died two years ago, leaving behind 10 children and a wife who depended on him. We all believe he died unnecessarily.

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My Brother’s Keeper: Christian Science Vs. The Science Of Medicine

Today my brother Arthur helped someone stay alive a little bit longer. He wouldn’t be happy with how I used his story, but he’s dead enough to not hear it.

Art had an enormous IQ which helped him dance through school, standardized testing, and academic awards like a hot knife through butter. But life requires many skill sets, genius being just one. My brother’s biography in many ways mirrors that of the Unabomber’s — move for move — until one decisive moment when Jesus walked into Art’s life.

Forever and irrevocably from that moment forward, Art became God’s logic pugilist. Heretofore, all of his training in science and math was used to prove that the truth in the Bible could be found only in literal interpretation. 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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