I have come to believe that humility is an essential component of wisdom. Never have I found this truer than in the practice of medicine. In fact, for almost every atrocious professional error in judgment I have made, I can pinpoint the exact moment where I stopped being humble. Yet time and time again, humility quickly disappears when dealing with the difficult patient. In fact, the label "difficult" assumes the problem ...

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Free speech is one of our bedrock constitutional rights. The battle over what constitutes lawful free speech is ongoing. But the issue is more complex than I can grasp with legal distinctions separating political speech, commercial speech and noncommercial speech. And, of course, the right of speech does not permit the free expression of obscenity or "fighting words" along with some other exclusions. There is no right to free speech in ...

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We are neurosurgeons, albeit not rocket scientists, but with our insider knowledge, it should be easy for us to understand “narrow networks.” Unfortunately, this is not the case so we can imagine how difficult it is for our patients. Consider the following scenario:

A 52-year-old woman is receiving long-term care for multiple myeloma primarily involving the spine. Well-coordinated neurosurgical and oncological care is provided through a large multispecialty group; however, if ...

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The patient, I surmised, was the one in the wheelchair with nasal oxygen and an unhealthy red color of her cheeks. The younger woman in the room with her looked like she might be a daughter. I introduced myself. I had been right about the other woman being her daughter. It was Saturday clinic, urgent care at our country doctor practice, and the plastic holders with “express check-in” history forms and a ...

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acp new logoA guest column by the American College of Physicians, exclusive to KevinMD.com. Lately, I’ve been asking myself whether today’s patient is less able to self-manage minor illnesses than their parents or grandparents. That question was inspired by my review of notes from my patients’ visits with my nurse practitioners or to our after-hours clinic, as ...

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This May, I will graduate from medical school. I will also be part of the first group of medical students to graduate from its new Literature and Medicine track. To me and the other participants, this has been one of the most important components of our medical education. In many ways, it has kept us grounded, serving as a constant reminder that there are experiences different from our own. We know ...

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There are parts of medicine that are horrendous. Moments too painful to recount, and events that will break even the most innocent participants. And then, there is unspeakable magic. I live for the days when a patient comes to the office with a particularly vexing set of symptoms. Specialist after specialist bows their head in disagreement. Laboratory values whisper falsehoods with jeering tongues. Symptoms are transient, physical exam signs inconsistent and in ...

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The day after I told Nell she had seven metastases to her brain, she sent me flowers. She was my patient; I was her oncologist. I had met her one year prior, when she was well into her cancer journey, stage IV breast cancer at diagnosis. I took over from her current oncologist, who was moving. At our first visit together, she grilled me without mercy. Her questions were insightful, and ...

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As physicians, we are seen as leaders whether we like it or not. And as such, we are charged with modeling greatness. But do we? Our training, while teaching us to be experts and authorities, does not teach us how to be leaders. However, somehow we get out into practice and are automatically seen as leaders, and thrown into positions that require a skill that we don’t have. And we ...

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Dear Dr. Wible, We’ve talked before. To catch you up, I’m in my clinical years now and I keep waiting to feel the same starry-eyed excitement I felt during the first months of med school, when I thought that becoming a doctor would finally give me a tangible purpose and make me a better person by helping me do right by others in ...

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