Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Why Doctors Should Be Less Like Chuck Yeager And More Like Captain Sullenberger

A recent medical error of a wrong-site surgery that occurred in one of the country’s best hospitals, Massachusetts General, reminded me why doctors need to be less like Chuck Yeager and more like Captain Sullenberger.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot, years before the movie “Top Gun” became a part of the American lexicon. My hero was World War II pilot Chuck Yeager, who later became one of the country’s premier test pilots flying experimental jet and rocket propelled planes in a time when they were dangerous, unpredictable, and unreliable.

Much like the astronauts in the movie “The Right Stuff,” Yeager and his colleagues literally flew by the seat of their pants, made it up as they went along, and never really knew if their maiden flight in a new aircraft might be their last. They were cowboys in the sky wrangling and taming the heavens.

Fast forward to January 2009, when shortly after takeoff, a one-in-a-million chance, a double-bird strike completely disabled a US Airways jetliner. Captain Chesley Sullenberger, with the help of his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, ditches the aircraft in the Hudson River in under four minutes even as the nation surely expected a tragedy. But not on that day. Not with that pilot. Read more »

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

US Airways: Unsung Corporate Hero?

usairwaysWhen it comes to facilitating transportation for wounded military personnel and their families, US Airways tops the generosity list, providing about $1 million in complimentary plane tickets/year. Steve Craven, a volunteer pilot with Mercy Medical Airlift, sat next to me en route to a recent Red Cross volunteer recognition ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He told me about the great lengths that some airlines will go to to help military families in need. For example, United Airlines and Delta Airlines have both recently offered assistance with the transportation of military personnel to cancer centers of excellence. Sadly, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, and Southwest Airlines have repeatedly turned down requests for assistance.

According to Mr. Craven, his organization coordinates about 25,000 Angel Flights, 10,000 cancer-related flights, and 6,000 Iraq war veteran flights (via Air Compassion for Veterans) per year, with over 7,000 volunteer angel pilots nationwide. Mercy Medical Airlift also runs a National Patient Travel Center which acts as a clearing house/military travel agency for charitable ticket programs, air ambulance discounts, and special lift programs – including transportation to the NIH for clinical trials.

I asked Mr. Craven what sort of patients need the air ambulance service. He responded that often times elderly veterans or military personnel with terminal illnesses wish to die at home (rather than in a specialty hospital or facility) but are too sick to travel in a regular airplane. The air ambulance service allows them to fulfill their last wish and die with dignity.

Sometimes, military families have a very sick child and have exhausted their resources but need specialty treatment at an academic center. Mercy Medical Airlift makes sure they get where they need to go. Once there, the families often stay at Ronald McDonald House or Fisher House. We’re so grateful to our partner airlines who make it possible for military families to stay together in times of medical hardship.

I offer my thanks to US Airways for their generosity to military personnel and their families – as a rehab physician, I know how much it means to them to have their family with them in sickness and in health.

Secretary Robert Gates Addresses The Red Cross At Walter Reed

Secretary Robert Gates Addresses The Red Cross At Walter Reed

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles