One hundred forty-nine messages. This is what I return to on my first day back from vacation. Many of them were marked with a little red arrow, indicating a high-priority phone message. Recharging with a little time off is a darn good thing, something we all need, and something which has been shown to help all of us be better at what we do. All of us, no matter what our jobs are. ...

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I have been following the progress of bedside ultrasound (using ultrasound as a diagnostic tool during my physical exam of patients) as it gets a foothold in standard medical practice since I first started learning to do it about 3 years ago. Every so often a study comes out which warms my heart as it proves that less (radiation, expense) is more in treating patients. An article came out in the ...

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She was sick.  Not sick like a high fever, body aches and a runny nose.  Sick like she had spent the last half a decade in nursing homes as most of her internal organs failed.  There was oxygen, and dialysis, and a colostomy.  She propelled herself vigorously through the crowded halls in the custodial wing of the nursing home, her wheelchair a natural extension of her body thoroughly unhampered by ...

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If you are a physician like me who performs procedures, then rarely you will cause a medical complication. This is a reality of medical life. If perforation of the colon with colonoscopy occurs at a rate of 1 in 1,500, and you do 3,000 colonoscopies each year, then you can do the math. Remember that a complication is a blameless event, in contrast to a negligent act when the physician is ...

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“Mr. Jones’ chest x-ray looks normal,” the intern said to me on morning rounds. Mr. Jones just had a transhiatal esophagectomy (THE).  The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the back of one’s throat to their stomach.  It can develop cancer or become completely dysfunctional because of benign processes, and therefore need to be removed. A THE involves cutting out the patient’s esophagus, in Mr. Jones’ case for cancer, bringing the stomach up ...

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How hospitals discourage doctors: A step by step guide Not accustomed to visiting hospital executive suites, I took my seat in the waiting room somewhat warily. Seated across from me was a handsome man in a well-tailored three-piece suit, whose thoroughly professional appearance made me -- in my rumpled white coat, sheaves of dog-eared paper bulging from both pockets -- feel out of place. Within a minute, an administrative secretary came out and ...

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, increased the availability of FDA-approved contraception to women through cost-free coverage under the contraceptive mandate. With the exception of some religiously affiliated insurance plans and employers who are legally exempt, this mandate supports women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including the most effective forms of contraception. However, an integral part of family planning was left out of the legislation: contraceptive ...

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A palliative care dilemma on the first day of the job It was my first day at my new job, practicing a new specialty. Having spent fourteen years as an ICU physician -- including a four-year pulmonary/critical-care fellowship in this very hospital -- I had just completed a palliative care fellowship. Now I was the hospital's palliative care consult attending. When I set eyes on the patient in room 1407, my first thought ...

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“All your patients will die. Maybe not today, but someday.  The defining fact of life is that it ends.  Only a fool would dedicate their career to fighting something that can never be beaten.  Therefore, a doctor’s task cannot be to fight death.  A doctor’s task is to heal when possible and prevent suffering always. Our calling is to support life. Fighting death may deprive patients of the opportunity to ...

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If I were punched by an unknown man in an elevator there would be little doubt that my assailant would be prosecuted. If the trauma were enough to cause me to lose consciousness, meaning I suffered brain trauma, my attacker would likely be charged with aggravated assault. No one would be surprised if he received jail time. No one would think twice if he lost his job. However, if I ...

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