A psychiatric colleague once told me that the incidence of anxiety disorders went down drastically during the blitz, when London was under constant siege by German bombs in 1940-1941. I don't know whether this is true, or even how you could measure such a thing under those conditions--but it makes sense to me. The patients I saw at Massachusetts General Hospital the day after the terrorist attacks just two miles ...

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Sometimes, when a parent tells me about something that happened with their child, I think (and say, as nicely as I can): Why didn't they call right away? And sometimes, when I'm talking to a parent or seeing their child in the office, I think (but don't say): Why did they call about this? It can be really hard to know when to call the doctor. It's hard because sometimes you plain old ...

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A divorced friend of mine who recently started dating was shocked to find that the complete absence of female pubic hair seemed to be an expectation among her potential partners. I’m not surprised, when I was in the dating pool a couple of years back there were men who actually listed full clamscaping required among the personal attributes they were seeking in a girlfriend (and here I was looking for ...

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shutterstock_100033454 I want to wake up feeling restless and uncomfortable. It’ll be neat to drag myself out of bed to open that first bottle of wine. I’ll drink all of it within an hour. Then I’ll go to the liquor store. The guy behind the counter will know that, everyday, I will buy a pint of vodka from him. He will look at ...

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When I attended the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) conference in Boston recently, discussion swirled on the topics of unsustainable costs of care, doctors’ incentives under traditional payment models to order more tests and treatments, and the struggles of patients’ family members to avoid unwanted care at the end of life. That Sunday night, I was back at my day job (so to speak) in ...

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Today the road all runners come, Shoulder high we bring you home And set you at your threshold down Townsman of a stiller town. -A.E Housman As the afternoon’s events unfolded, I sat glued to my computer screen between patients.  My life has really been a tale of three cities—Houston, Boston and San Diego.  Boston was where I did my residency training, met my husband, had my three children and my first “real” jobs.  I ...

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A few years ago my best friend ran the Boston Marathon. She came back glowing, proud that she’d qualified, amazed by the crowds and energized by the feeling of community. Never once did she think that she could have died from a bomb exploding at the finish line. America seems to be facing tragedy after tragedy. From the Aurora shootings, to Sandy Hook Elementary, to the Boston Marathon bombings, each time ...

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There was an article in the New York Times recently about the importance of cultivating a family narrative to instill a sense of identity, control, and resilience in children. The more children know about their family story, the better equipped they are to handle stresses that would shake their foundation. Is it possible that, in the realm of personal health and well being, the cultivation of an affirmative ...

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I can remember making rounds with a seasoned surgical attending in medical school.  In typical fashion, surgical rounds were a lot like the military.  The “General” (attending physician) at the front, always commanding respect (and often fear) followed by the chief resident, junior residents, interns and finally medical students.  Cases were presented, statuses were updated and plans were formulated.  Then came the barrage of medical fact questions–mostly directed at the ...

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First a disclaimer: People often receive compassionate, considerate and effective care at hospitals. They have countless interactions which impart the miracle of human caring and enrich their lives. It is also institutionally prevalent to have haphazard care with poor communication, near misses and avoidable misery. I have been working at a university hospital emergency room as part of a mini-fellowship in bedside ultrasound.  It is the first time I have spent ...

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