Just three weeks earlier, she had noticed something strange about one of her breasts. An irregular shape. Her daughter brought her to the doctor, and soon the patient, I’ll call her Amanda, was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage “to be determined.” In fact, she was now in an oncologist’s office, learning what tests she would receive to determine the extent of her tumor. And sitting between her and the doctor ...

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Ran into a radiology colleague today.  He will retire soon, and was happy to discuss the stress on radiology.  I have observed more interpretation errors (or at least I think I have) over the past five years.  We now strongly stress that the learners review all films and question radiology reads. My friend opined that volume expectations have become unsustainable.  We order too many imaging studies.  When you ask physicians to ramp ...

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Like an anthem, a holy grail, the word appears in every journal, every proposal, and every health strategic plan. “Quality.” We say, read and hear it so often we are developing quality fatigue. Like iterative hackneyed phrases such as “out-of-the-box”, “deep-dive” and perhaps even “personalized medicine,” quality has begun to feel like water torture and risks being deprived of flavor or meaning.  However, do not so fooled or bludgeoned that you lose ...

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I was talking with a few friends not long ago.  Our conversation somehow got to the issue of authority, and what exactly respect for authority looks like.  One of them, trying to make a point, turned to me and asked: "So you surely deal with people who don't listen to what you have to say.  What do you do when your patients don't take the medications you prescribe?" I think he ...

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My longtime patient Brenda let the top of her exam gown drop to her waist, stepped down off the exam table and turned to look at herself in the mirror. As I watched, she cupped her seventy-eight-year-old breasts in her palms and unceremoniously hoisted them up to where they'd probably resided when she was in her twenties. "I'm thinking about having my boobs done," she said. "My girlfriend had hers done, ...

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My most important patient requires my constant diligence. For this reason, I am seldom far away from him. Only a few minutes inattention and there will be problems. I cannot forget my patient; I am trained to attend to him constantly. I am a professional, and my patient is, ultimately, my customer and the customer’s service is paramount, I am told. I am reminded by policies and procedures as well, ...

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When he turned 45, Mitch Alsup bought a red Corvette. Mitch is a quick-talking guy with dirty blonde hair and a short, trim physique. He has a ready smile and is willing to share his story. “As a kid, I use to go down to the Chevrolet dealership and sit in a Corvette,” he recalls. “I wanted one when I turned 18, but I came from a poor family. I had to ...

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Guilt was not a huge part of my vocabulary until I became a mom.  I never felt much guilt about how I spent my time.  Didn’t feel guilty about sleeping in, or working out, or having a girls’ night out.  And so on and so forth. And then I became a mom.  You know, that moment when you get shoved into the most beautiful world; a place more beautiful than you could ...

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Of course, patients are entitled to medical care around the clock.  You would not expect to show up at 2 a.m. at an emergency room to find a "closed" sign.  If you are having chest pain on a weekend, and you call your doctor’s office, you should expect a prompt response from a living and breathing medical doctor.  Patients are aware that when they call the doctor at night, that ...

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I have a lot of ER stories that involve drug addiction and drug seeking behavior. I knew a patient who intentionally dislocated his shoulder three times in one day to receive pain medication. Another had a friend who stole an entire dirty needle box in order to rummage through it for injectable drugs. I have been told by patients that pain pills were eaten by dogs, stolen by neighbors, lost in ...

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