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When Medical Advice Is Sought From Health Advocates, Not Physicians

It is happening several times a day now. The phone rings. I get stopped at Starbucks, or at the dog park, or at the supermarket. “My friend may have a brain tumor,” “I have been short of breath,” “I am tired all the time.”  Then come the questions: “What do you think I should do? Who should I see?”  I am not a doctor, but people are increasingly looking to me as if I were one. It’s a little daunting.

As you may know, I’ve been producing and/or hosting programs on medical topics for patients since the mid 1980’s. First it was erectile dysfunction, then breast surgery, then multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes – you name it, I’ve interviewed someone about it. Town meetings, live audio webcasts, radio shows, and videos. I feel like I’ve gone to med school two or three times. And like a med student I’ve worried common symptoms could mean the worst diagnosis. That headache could be too much coffee OR it could be a brain tumor. Feeling tired could be you are snoring and have sleep apnea OR you have leukemia.

A number of years ago, having just moved from Los Angeles to Seattle, Hollywood called. A friend sold a 5 day a week medical show to MGM and he needed wife/partner Esther and me to be producers. We were the ones who wrote what flashed on the screen when a patient described their symptoms to one of the real docs who were stars of the show “Group One Medical.”  “I have had some blood in my stool, the patient would say. Flash on the screen: could be hemorrhoids. Could be advanced colon cancer.  We walked around the home/office worrying about every ache and pain. I am told that’s just what med students do. The most mundane could be life-threatening. Read more »

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

A Doctor’s Hauntings

2:30AM: The beeper sounds. “Please call the ER x2222.” Why are they calling me? I’m not on call. A flash then a clap of thunder outside. “Your patient from a few days ago is here in the ER.”

The mind races. You remember the case clearly. No problem at all. What could be going on? You ask 20 questions, you get 20 answers. All of the bases have been covered. “Doin’ better now,” you’re told. “We’ll just admit ’em and you can see ‘em in the morning.” Hesitantly you return to bed, mind racing. Read more »

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

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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