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Latest Posts

A Chia Pet For Diabetes?

Like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano in the spring, Chia Pets begin appearing every December on late-night television and in the gift aisles of many stores. (Full disclaimer: I bought one for the Yankee Swap at Harvard Health Publication’s annual Christmas party.) Water these ceramic figures and they sprout a green “fur” from seeds embedded on the surface. Silly? Sure, that’s why they are such a hit. What you might not know is that the seeds may someday be a real gift for people with diabetes.

Chia seeds come from a plant formally known as Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family. It gets its common name from the Aztec word “chian,” meaning oily, because the herb’s small, black seeds are rich in oils. It was a staple food for the Aztecs, and legend has it that their runners relied on chia seeds for fuel as they carried messages one hundred or more miles in a day. Chia seeds contain more healthy omega-3 fats and fiber than flax or other grain seeds. They are also a good source of protein and antioxidants. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Tech-nitis: New “Overuse Injuries” From Too Much Personal Technology

It’s not surprising to people that I’m a “techy” type of guy. Reading tech stories about the latest gadgets is a nice occasional escape from work. One of the ways that medicine and tech intersect is in some “overuse injuries” that I’ve seen and talked with people about. When the Nintendo Wii first came out, there were many stories of “Wii-itis” and tendonitis-related injuries.

Last week American Medical News interviewed me for a story posted on their site [on September 27th] called “New Personal Technology Creating New Ailments.” The article opens like this:

When Mike Sevilla, MD, sees young patients at his Salem, Ohio, family practice, he often finds them text messaging or listening to music on portable media players. These tech-savvy patients may not realize it, but they could be on the way to developing health problems related to overuse of personal technology. That’s why Dr. Sevilla uses such exam room encounters as a springboard to talk about the potential health impact of today’s tech devices.

“I talk about listening to loud music and being distracted while driving. … I bring up those examples of people who were hurt or killed because they could not disconnect themselves from their cell phone,” he said. Dr. Sevilla and other physicians across the nation are adding questions about cell phone use and computer habits to the office visit at a time when dependence on electronic devices has reached unprecedented levels.

The article goes on to say that the most common physical problems that are seen include problems with vision, elbow, thumb, and wrist. These are due to prolonged use of computers and mobile devices like cell phones and electronic handheld devices. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

Texting While Driving: “It’s Like Everybody’s Drunk” Or Worse

A mentor recently mentioned in passing that he stopped riding motorcycle when cellphones came out, as he noticed the average driver distraction level had gone way up. He said, “It’s like everybody’s drunk.”

There’s lots of ways to be an impaired driver: Physical or mental fatigue, chemicals (legal and not), emotional extremes, etc. (This is not an exhaustive list). What I want to focus on here is a very controllable risk factor: Divided attention.

A quick Internet search turned up some original research from Car and Driver on the subject of texting while driving compared with actual alcohol-impaired driving, and the results are shockingly worse than I would have thought. From their (admittedly limited but well done) study, texting is way worse than being at the legal alcohol limit when it comes to both reading and writing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Dr. Frank Ryan’s Death: What We Can Learn From It

I’ll be honest — I’d never heard of Dr. Frank Ryan, a Hollywood plastic surgeon, until his tragic motor vehicle accident recently. Clients included actress Heidi Montag and boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

Although the California Highway Patrol investigation isn’t complete, rumors have suggested that Dr. Ryan may have been text messaging when driving. If this is true and an intelligent, well-trained doctor can fall prey to the allure of technology, then what does it mean for the rest of us?

First, realize that we can’t multitask. You have one brain. You can focus at one task at a time. Though laws allow hands-free cellphone calls, the issue isn’t trying to dial the phone but rather that the mind is engaged in the conversation and not on the road. Yes, we are all increasingly busy, but we can’t multitask. In fact, researchers have found that it takes more time and effort to refocus when we are distracted from one task to the other. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

How Cellphones Kill

San Francisco recently passed a law requiring disclosure to consumers of the amount of radiation emitted by cellphones at the point of sale. Research has been inconclusive on whether there is a link between cellphone usage and cancer. More definitive findings could be years away.

Understandably the law addresses a universal concern that we all have. We are more fearful of threats we can’t see, smell, hear, taste, or touch. Radon, carbon monoxide, and radiation fit these criteria.

Yet, cellphones kill in other ways which are far more immediate, equally as subtle, and just as concerning. This silent epidemic is increasing at an alarming rate. Everyone sees it, but does nothing about it. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

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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