There you are in your father's arms. He is practically running to keep up with the triage nurse. The nurse is walking quickly toward the room that we leave open for true emergencies and the sickest patients. Your father's eyes are full of fear, and the nurse’s tone is worrisome. I look down at you all snuggled up to your father's chest. You are beautiful. So small and bright-eyed. You don't ...

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A few months ago, I got the dreaded 2 a.m. consult from the emergency department. I met Mr. Smith, a man with a very strange looking and inflamed gallbladder. The abnormal appearance on ultrasound meant we had to discuss the possibility of malignancy. Instead of the usual 15-minute spiel about removing the gallbladder, I spoke to the patient and his wife for nearly an hour. I drew the anatomy. I discussed ...

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I took a fantastic emergency medicine (EM) job when I finished residency.  There was no question in my mind that it was the best job within a hundred mile radius, maybe more.  When I first started, my expectations were met.  My group held a contract to staff a busy but well-staffed suburban emergency department, and had held that contract for almost 20 years when I signed.  The hospital was independent, ...

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I am about to place my plate in the sink, until I see a single pea left on my plate. I recall a recent article in National Geographic that stated that one-third of all the food we produce is wasted. I have a Zen moment, and think of the journey the pea made to reach my plate. A farmer in California sowed the seeds six months earlier. A farm worker harvested ...

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If you are a doctor, everywhere you hear or read about all that is wrong in medicine.  Please do not get me wrong, the medical profession is under assault.  Change is occurring all around us, and much of it has the potential to be disastrous to not only us and our families, but more importantly to our patients.  For many of us in the profession, we feel helpless.  We feel ...

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I learned that the 148-year-old community hospital that I did my residency at will be closing, and I am angry. Who am I angry at? Myself. Oh, and you. I’m angry at us because we as a country have turned our backs on one another. And in the end, your relationship with your own doctor is in jeopardy. Pawtucket, Rhode Island, home of Memorial Hospital, used to be a prosperous mill ...

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I dialed the number to return the call of the nursing home. The nurse who answered the phone was relieved to hear my voice on the other line: “Dr. Mass, thank God you called back! She has been pacing since she woke up, and she refuses to take her meds. We’ve kept her away from Catherine, so they don’t get into another fistfight. But we can’t handle her here anymore. ...

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Like many boys born in the 60s, my heroes were often frontiersmen.  I grew up watching the Daniel Boone television series, with Fess Parker.  (I can hear the theme song in my head as I type.)  I watched the Disney production of Davy Crockett, and had a comic book of the same.  I never missed a chance to watch John Wayne die on the walls of the Alamo (also as Davy ...

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Doctors have an interesting problem. They have an ingrained professional obsessive-compulsive habit; they fixate on the care of individual patients and on the science of healing. This is an admirable trait; it results in high-quality care. However, when physicians need to change their attention from healer to leader, from medicine to the business of medicine, from health care to the health care system, they falter. Stuck in silos, they fail to ...

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Despite all the challenges that we, and every other nation, faces with their health care systems, it’s worth remembering that in the broader picture we really have progressed in leaps and bounds over the last several decades. How easy is it to forget that only 100 years ago the average life expectancy was in the 20s to 40s in most parts of the world (just as it was for nearly ...

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