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Book Review: Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So

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I’ll cut to the chase: I loved this book. Five stars. Two thumbs up.

When I read books, especially psychiatry books that I write about on Shrink Rap, I often read more carefully and sometimes more critically. I was so immersed in reading “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So” that I didn’t stop to think, I just went on the journey.

Mark Vonnegut is a pediatrician and the son of my favorite author when I was in junior high school. His memoir is a poignant and candid account of his struggles with, well, life in general, and life with a psychotic illness in particular. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder — who knows? (I’ll vote for bipolar disorder.) Some illness where he had three episodes in his twenties, then another episode 14 years later.

Thorazine and lithium and megavitamins and psych wards. Xanax and alcohol and how humiliating it is to be psychotic on a stretcher in the ER hallway of the hospital where he works. Divorce and remarriage. First and second families. Childhood as the son of a financially struggling, not-yet-famous eccentric writer, and adulthood as the son of an icon. Vonnegut is a hippy, a mainstream doctor, a middle-aged softball player, then finally a guy who accidentally poisons himself with wild mushrooms. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Professional Boundaries: Is It Okay For A Friend To Treat A Friend?

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I just finished reading Dr. Gary Small’s book, The Naked Lady Who Stood On Her Head.

In the final chapter of the book, Dr. Small talks about his mentor, friend, and father figure who’s mentioned throughout the book. The mentor approaches him on the golf course, where they meet to talk, and says he needs psychotherapy and Small is the man to do it. The author is surprised, hesitant, and a bit uncomfortable with the demand (it comes as more than a request.) His wife likens it to the need for a plumber or a dentist, and Dr. Small takes on the task. The mentor calls all the shots: Where the meetings will be, what pastry they will eat, the form of his payment. The author initially misses the diagnosis and uses this as an example of how one can be blinded.

So is it okay for a friend to treat a friend? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Book Review: The Mayo Clinic Book Of Home Remedies

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I write a lot of critical articles. It’s nice to be able to write a positive one for a change. I received a prepublication proof of The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies: What to Do for the Most Common Health Problems. It is due to be released on October 26 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com. Since “quackademic” medicine is infiltrating our best institutions and organizations, I wasn’t sure I could trust even the prestigious Mayo Clinic. I was expecting some questionable recommendations for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments, but I found nothing in the book that I could seriously object to.

It is organized alphabetically, starting with acne and airplane ear and progressing through bedbugs, boils and bronchitis, dandruff, depression and diabetes to warts, wrinkles and wrist pain. Each entry consists of (1) a description of the problem and its symptoms, (2) treatments you can try at home, and (3) when to seek professional medical help. It concludes with a short section on emergency medicine that covers anaphylaxis, bleeding, burns, CPR, choking, fracture, heart attack, poisoning, seizure, shock and stroke.

Nowhere does it mention acupuncture, chiropractic, energy medicine, or homeopathy. It gives good, clear guidance about when a health problem should not be treated with home remedies. Its recommendations about diet and exercise are solid. It doesn’t recommend anything that can’t be supported by published studies and common sense. When it recommends herbal remedies and dietary supplements, it is cautious about what it claims. For instance, glucosamine and chondroitin are listed for osteoarthritis, but they point out that further study is required and they say “because the supplements may help and appear to be safe, it may not hurt to give them a try.” Not exactly a strong recommendation. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

PTSD “Breakthrough?” Real Science Doesn’t Need Endorsement

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The PTSD BreakthroughIt infuriates me when someone misappropriates the word “science” to promote treatments that are not actually based on science. I have just read a book entitled The PTSD Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Science-Based Compass RESET Program by Dr. Frank Lawlis, a psychologist who is the chief content advisor for Dr Phil and The Doctors. There is very little science in the book and references are not provided. It amounts to an indiscriminate catalog of everything Dr. Lawlis can imagine that might help post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients. 

He describes recent brain imaging studies suggesting that signs of traumatic brain injury are associated with PTSD.  He thinks PTSD can no longer be considered a psychological condition, but must be approached as a complex biological, physical, psychological, and spiritual condition. He says many of these patients have brain damage. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

A Biomedical Look At Spaceflight

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Book review by Dan Buckland

(Dan Buckland is an editor at Medgadget and an MD/PhD student at Harvard Med/MIT whose thesis deals with diagnosing back injury in spaceflight using ultrasound.)

Mary Roach, author of previous entertaining books Bonk (a history of sex research) and Stiff (a history of cadaver research), has turned her considerable talents in translating decades of research into a readable review of human (and animal) spaceflight experimentation.

The title of her new book, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, is a bit of a misnomer — only the last chapter is devoted to the medical advances needed for a trip to Mars. However, it is a great layman’s history of the biomedical results of both the American and Russian space programs.

Through my own research and academic career I’ve been peripherally involved with many of the recent studies she mentions in the book, and I know many of the people she interviewed, so I give her credit for taking some fairly complicated concepts and distilling them to relevant anecdotes and asides. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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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